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Chef Gene Gonzalez
Chef Gene Gonzalez
Pleasures of the Table

A Golden Evening

I have to hand it to FIJEV buddy and wine expert Sherwin Lao and his partners, people who are in the business of wine and know the fun in its appreciation by involving their group’s clients and friends with some very creative activities. I have personally attended many of their tasting events that limit the attendees to a more focused group. Though the wines may be pedigreed or need a serious form of attention and critiquing, the Golden Wines group certainly did not fall short of their idea of bringing their invitees on a tasting journey of French wines from the Rhone, Bordeaux, and the Champagne region in a preliminary three-course dinner that ended in a well selected cheese table to mop up the remaining wines on the table. The diner is …

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On the road

It has been about a year since I would always, in the evenings, see this small pickup with a wood burning dome oven with its intense heat and wood flames glowing by the side of the busy main road of J.P. Laurel near the Buhangin Flyover in Davao City. The dimly lit pop up pizza stand, called Classio, has eventually grown, adding more chairs and tables with more people standing and waiting in line for an opportunity to eat their pizzas al fresco, fresh from this oven. My son, Chef Gino, who was on a teaching stint, beat me in trying this place out and promised to take me there when we would both be handling classes in Davao City. Apparently he had gotten chummy with the owner when he drew …

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Gin action

Images by Noel Pabalate Video by John Alvin Veri and Juan Carlo Villanueva   My first encounter with Hendrick’s Gin was a few years back when wine buddy Jay Labrador and I decided to have this gin in a tonic with a slice of cucumber. We have found the spirit to be quite different from the London Dry Gin that was heavy on the juniper. Though lighter on juniper and with the surprising rose and cucumber notes, the Hendrick’s tonic was a pleasing aperitif we had enjoyed before our casual and heady wine dinners. I had received an invite from Makati Shangri-La saying that their Sage Bar would be featuring top mixologist and Hendrick’s brand ambassadress Tasha Lu with her cocktails made from this spirit. Being someone who has written a couple of bar …

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Welcome to the Fat Cow

I have a fascination for small, quaint bistros where the chef-owner has a complete command of the place and bravely brings out his creations without the dictates of half a dozen or so stockholders of a restaurant group, because it seems to be a rarity nowadays. Perhaps in a place like Metro Manila it has become more difficult because of the high rental prices that need a group to pool in and finance a seemingly viable restaurant project. There are of course a few brave and talented souls who wish to pursue their dreams and creative instincts, many of whom you can find in other cities where their talents can afford to grow without the great pressures of a very unforgiving and demanding clientele. One very determined young soul I see is Patrick Co, the chef-owner of the Fat  Cow.  Since it opened on a side …

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Food at the Negros fair

It has been quite some time since I attended this fair, which had a few booths that were already teeming with Negrense delicacies such as pinitaw, piaya, dried fish, and bottled delicacies of every different kind that represents this area’s flavors. Moving forward two decades, I was completely enthralled when I decided to attend this fair again and buy a few traditional specialty items I missed and I saw this huge display of handicrafts and garments aside from the large food area, which displayed the recovering affluence, change in business directions, and most important, the effect on the culinary preferences and changing tastes of a gastronomic food zone in the Philippines. Here are some great and new finds: 1. El Ideal - For a bakery that has been around more than a hundred …

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Davao is alive, well, and partying!

I got to meet one of the three owners of Streets x Urban x Lifestyle X Bar when they were at their old location. Toffee Ang and his group were the very first to introduce draft beer to this bottle guzzling market in Davao City. It has only been days since the tragic bombing of the night market nearby but Streets was experiencing a full house last Friday, showing that the spirit of the people in this city was not dampened by terrorists. After almost a year of not visiting, I saw that the familiar and gigantic mugs called Tiny Joe (equivalent to the bigger German tankards of beer) were still present and going strong. What surprised me were the innovative cocktails with sunk bottles of beer or spirit miniatures that seemed …

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Going south

Empingao is a quaint place by San Lucas St. Makati in the Poblacion area. This tiny restaurant would comfortably sit 20 people and the offerings are some exciting flavors that bridge our taste buds to colonial influences we have in our homes and our favorite Spanish dishes. We started with the steamed mussels called choritosala chalaca which are dressed with corn and pico de gallo. The light heat and the piquant mix of spices and a fitting combination of chewy textures and sea flavors form the mussels blended with the crunchy sweet corn kernels topped over the dish. Next was the spinach, cheese, and leeks empanaditas that was served fresh from the fryer with its crisp, bubbly textured crust. Flavors vary as one taps the bites of the empanadita with the …

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From Argentina, with love

Despite the heavy rains, I was able to make my way to Pampas Restaurant at BGC to meet up with Master of Wine Aspirant Francesca Martin who is a brand manager of Altos las Hormigas, an Argentinean line of wines from Mendoza focused on Malbecs. I was quite excited to try the range of these wines from a maker whose philosophy of winemaking is centered on terroir and minimal intervention. The method of using neutral oaking and not the powerful new barrels, together with natural yeasts, and less sulfites are put together with emphasis on the geographies and environments of their vineyards to bring out what they would interpret as the true character of Malbec (Malbec of course is the adopted grape of Argentina and is suited to the inland …

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A wild goose chase

  I have always been a fan of roast goose, and every time there is an opportunity to go to Hong Kong, a visit would not be complete if I would not have at least even a plate of this wonderful delicacy. One of the food items I would always bring back would be a whole Yung Kee roast goose which I have been a longstanding fan of, aside from some little places where I would purchase a smaller duck. With the stricter and more stringent building rules now being imposed, a lot of these roasting places have had some considerable changes in classic taste as rules would not permit wood fired roasters, which makes up the true traditional flavor of their roasts. I did decide to visit what the Hong Kong …

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Holy Ho Lee!

I was with our faculty team in Hong Kong for a study leave when we were swamped with lot of recommendations, as we were posting our eating adventures. One of the stronger recommendations from friends back home and friends from abroad was Ho Lee Fook, which started a thread of puns. It was just a good 10 minute walk from our hotel in Central. Upon entering one would notice a seemingly cool place filled with gold Kaneko cats waving the prosperity in, while on the other side of the stairs is the open Asian and Western kitchen that surprisingly has two white boys stir-frying passionately on the Asian woks with the high pressure stoves. The music and the introduction to this restaurant seems to be of fun mixed with freshness and a …

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