Category Archives: Food & Culture

A Toast to Liquid Gold

Written by Vince Borromeo
Saturday, 21 September 2013

You just can’t hide a great thing, especially a great rum. Just like an idea whose time has come, a liquor comes into distillation at the right time and in the right place. The story of how Don Papa Rum came to be tells of how Filipino ingenuity birthed one of the smoothest sugar-based liquors that has gained worldwide recognition.
A Briton, Stephen Carroll, who made a living selling liquor all over the world, began to make friends here in the Philippines. He got invited by a local to his hometown Bacolod, Negros Occidental, an island in the Philippines, known for its rich, volcanic soil and its world-famous sugar canes.
These sugar canes made the people who grew them become known for their affluence. Locals would say in their vernacular “gina pico gina pala,” meaning their wealth was so vast it literally had to be shoveled and pick-axed.
Bacolod was also known for its “estoryas tartaras,” incredible stories that had the ring of truth about them due to the wealth of the sugar barons. They were known to have ordered sports cars before these were even made, without having seen it or knowing the price. These stories of the affluence and riches of the place might be exaggerations, but when you see the soil and the place, your jaw will quite literally drop.
I once saw a foreign agronomist-soil scientist awed in such a way, with sighs of unbelief upon seeing this soil of gold in Bacolod. He tasted the sugar cane in the area and the soil expert exclaimed that from this soil, these must be the sweetest sugar cane in the entire world. And that is how Don Papa Rum came to be liquid gold in Philippine soil.
The name Don Papa was taken from a local unsung hero named Papa Isio (his real name is Dionisio Siguela Papa, according to the Negros Daily Bulletin in Roque Hofilena Jr.’s “Chiaroscuro” column dated Feb. 21, 2012), who is claimed to have been a foreman at a sugar plantation and was also known as a healer and the rebel leader of a group of revolutionaries, the babaylanes, during the 19th century Philippine revolt against the Spanish regime.

When Carroll saw all the sugar cane in Bacolod, his first question was, “Where is the rum?”

Rum is the alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane, and he naturally expected that Bacolod was producing rum. To his astonishment, no rum had even been produced in Bacolod. This birthed the idea of a rum production where he partnered with Filipinos Monica Llamas and Andrew Garcia to create a homegrown brew that eventually received international acclaim.

The naturally sweet rum aged for over seven years has oak and vanilla notes and is smooth to the palate with a fruity finish. A French rock and roll guitarist, Matthias Cadeac D’Arbaud, when he turned bartender/owner of Bar Zelda, got hold of a few bottles and started serving the rum in France. His secret, Don Papa, was the hit of the place. He got worried about his rum stock and made sure he would be able to buy and secure Don Papas. He went as far as to fly to the Philippines several times to keep his bar well-stocked.

On a recent visit to the Philippines, Cadeac D’Arbaud, said, “In mixology, there are a lot of things to highlight and develop when it comes to ingredients. I am always looking for new ingredients, including fresh produce like local fruits, herbs and spices. Don Papa Rum is like a new baby in the family for us mixologists. It’s the one we’ve been waiting for.

“Don Papa is very complex and full. It’s always a challenge to create cocktails with something that’s already well-balanced. These cocktails are actually variations of classic cocktails. It’s all about where you want to go…It can be a spectrum of flavors, a map of feelings.”

Cadeac D’Arbaud shared four new signature Don Papa cocktails: Black Sand, The Destroyer, The Don Papa Julep and Don Papa Old Fashioned. These cocktails will be served in Don Papa’s upcoming weekly cocktail events in some of Manila’s best bars from September to December this year, including Las Flores, Rocket Room and Aracama at the Bonifacio Global City, as well as the famed Long Bar in Raffles Makati.
Cadeac D’Arbaud was also one of the bartenders who presented Don Papa at the Philippine expo at Musee du Quai Branly in Paris last April. Cadeac D’Arbaud was Lauren Conrad’s French lover in The Hills and the guitarist of French rock band Rock&Roll. Their album cover was photographed by Karl Lagerfeld, and the band played the front act at the Roberto Cavalli’s spring/summer menswear collection.

Published in Tribune Life Style

Prime Chops

Written by Reggie Rullan
Tuesday, 28 May 2013

I can never say no to steak, whether it is a backyard barbecue grilled local steak or a high-end, dry rubbed, aged hunk of prime imported meat.

Having steak in a cool, glass-ensconced steakhouse grounded with heavy wooden accents and sleek, steel light fixtures is altogether another experience. At Prime Chops, one of the newest steakhouses in town, the quiet attentiveness of the waitstaff is soothing as are the wood-encased air conditioners.
Chef Pete Ayson presented his chops in steak parlance when he made his appearance. His passionate demeanor made me believe that indeed his chops would get me a downright good steak experience.
Starting off with angel soft olive bread and aromatic truffled cream concentrated butter set the tone for the luncheon. The 10-inched baked marrow is a butter-like confection of tomato pulp and fresh breadcrumbs atop the precious marrow engulfed protectively by the bone. Each scoop is an indulgent taste of what it is like to have a lot of marrow — potentially to literally and figurativey become a bone of contention.
The slab of bacon, literally a slab cut across the grain to reveal the beautiful marbling of the belly, hinted of smokiness, saltiness and just a slight sweetness. In no time, each tender cut was demolished, leaving the side salad of arugula and mint forlorn. The pomengranate honey mustard with black pepper dip heightened the smokiness of the bacon and gave it a spicy tang.
The Steak Board Presentation with the 14-oz. Snake River Farm Wagyu, Chicago Prime Rib, or Porterhouse took one’s breath away as the inch-thick 21-oz. cuts stared right back at you. The only cut that did not daunt was the 8-oz. inch-thick medallion of tenderloin.
Meat lovers were agape at the prospect of the aged cuts being grilled to their exact specifications. Sides of truffled macaroni, creamed spinach with egg and wild rice succotash were just as tempting, but definitely took second place in the riveted attention of the carnivorous diners.
We could smell the meats grilling and were all salivating, the cool temperature of the restaurant not at all tempering the hankering for red meat. When the boards of steak arrive, pupils dilated in anticipation and hands were reaching out, as if by rote, for cutlery. Knowing that the chef had already rested the meat, each one took to cutting their first bite. Heads were gently shaking in approval, but no words were exchanged. Each precious minute was dedicated to the steak.
My Chicago Prime Rib was tender and had the coveted Angus meatiness to it. The charred crusts gave that grilled flavor, while the tender medium rare meat yielded to every bite. The fat caramelized and eating a portion of it was a no-brainer. Only good sense stopped me from eating every sweet fatty morsel.
My friend, Marlon Aldenese of Cook magazine, ordered Snake River Farm Wagyu. His 14-oz steak was soon gone as I kept poaching from him. The cut was was only a quarter of an inch thick, but it was beautifully, and I do not say that lightly, grilled. The charring was slight, but the grilled flavor was strong. This wagyu was so flavorful that the offer to eat a second steak was tempting albeit impossible after a 21-oz prime rib.
Vince Borromeo, another The Daily Tribune contributor, was the only one who ordered the medallion of tenderloin, and he was pleased to report that the cut was as juicy and tender as he had hoped it would be.
Halfway through our steaks, the sides began to tempt us. The baby iron cauldrons of creamed spinach were made with fresh whole leaves and the cream just about tempered its peppery taste. The egg ‘poached’ inside the cream lent more creaminess and heartiness, a classic and very apt side to the steaks.
The truffled mac and cheese was another indulgence, with the aroma and taste of the truffle oil making the classic noodle dish luxurious. The wild rice succotash, another classic vegetable dish, was made earthy by the wild rice.
To make for an indulgent ending to an indulgent meal from start to finish, Ayson prepared a triple cookie dough — butterscotch, chocolate chip and brownie layers, which were served with homemade salted caramel ice cream. The composition of the classic flavors presented comfort food at its finest, but the piece de resistance, pardon the cliche, but applicable in every way in this case, was the wafer cigar filled with cookie butter, Speculoos. This latest craze of a spread was imported by the chef as it is not yet available locally. Hints of gingerbread accentuated the flavors inside the cigar and these were the first to go from the dessert plate.

Chops is located at the fourth floor, Greenbelt 5 (in front of Peking Garden) with telephone numbers (+632) 945-8088 and 945-8188.

By Reggie Rullan, Contributor

Brewing the best

by Dinah S. Ventura
(Manila, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life January 17, 2013

A Coffee Master Class reveals all the ingredients to creating the perfect cup of coffee

It is difficult to ignore a store like Alessi. With its starkly colored, whimsical displays of home products, the place certainly draws the eye. In recent months, however, it has tended to draw the nose as well.
Since the store began welcoming coffee aficionados with a promise of brew and banter (well, more like “lessons”) in the last quarter of 2012, Alessi has given shoppers more reason to stop and stare.

Alessi is actually one of the brands under the company Conlins Coffee World Inc., which is described as “the leading specialty roasting company and exclusive coffee supplier and also exclusive distributors and service agents of world-class coffee machines.”

Harris Conlin, owner of the Alessi store, began conducting in the last quarter of 2012 Coffee Master Classes at the Bonifacio High Street branch to cater to café owners, baristas and coffee aficionados.

Introducing the coffee machine of WEGA one morning, the class gathered a few café business owners, baristas and coffee enthusiasts/future café owners. Also featured was the Bluenotes coffee brand and Serenity syrups for coffee, sodas and other beverages.

Jason, the WEGA barista who patiently showed his small audience the step-by-step to brewing a good “cuppa,” said that keeping up with the coffee market is an ongoing process. For their part, he added, they would like to bring it back to basics, or to focus on what coffee is, how it is done, what a machine does and what technology does to brew coffee. For a barista who knows his stuff, Jason simply clarified that it is all about having “the right tools to do the right job.”

The newest Wega machine, he stressed, is the result of years of experience of baristas. “The wegaconcept is the best tool you can have. It ensures stability of coffee, consistency — in short, every cup is the same. Also, this is one machine that can do two kinds of coffee at the same time because it has a double boiler. It is like having two machines in one, independent of each other.”

The wegaconcept boasts of the following main features: “SLS or self-learning software, which efficiently remembers workload and adjusts work and stand-by functions accordingly; MBT ot multi-boiler technology, which guarantees thermal stability of coffee brewing boilers for the perfect espresso; LEC or low energy consumption, with its combined MBT and SLS, and its nocturnal stand-by mode allows a 47 percent savings during rest period and 30 percent savings during operational period; and HSB or high safety boiler, with five separate safety features on the service boilers and four separate safety features on the individual coffee brewing boilers.”

Having a good machine to back up the barista, Jason said, is as important as having good beans to grind. “A barista should be able to entertain or connect, otherwise customers are just there for the coffee, not the experience, which is what keeps them coming back.”

In the same way, he pointed out, a barista’s efficiency and knowledge contribute to the experience. “Simple care taken into coffee-making may turn it into either a very good cup or a very bad cup.”

The difference, he noted, lies in the process. In this, the “time frame” a barista takes, with his reliable coffee machine, matters plenty.

The process of coffee-making involves many steps: grinding the coffee beans; tamping the grinds; brewing; frothing, steaming; and even making “art” with the froth.

There are minute considerations to ensure a good cup. A machine that lets you “grind on demand,” for example, gives you a fresh cup with a purer taste. Coffee, Jason said, should have that quality of acidity that seems “more happening in your mouth, with lemony, buttery, creamy notes,” or whatever that means.

Believe it or not, every second counts in making coffee since pressing a button too long or too short could ruin the brew. Even tamping is an art — or skill. The tamper, Jason clarified, is like a chef’s knife for baristas. It is a tool that comes in different weights and sizes. Its main goal, he added, is to create a seal so that the brewing process is perfect. The style of tamping is very important and reveals a barista’s excellence, according to Jason. If you see a barista standing and using his body weight to press evenly, then the truth is revealed.

“When the pressed coffee grinds ‘crack’ by knocking (tapping the tamper on a hard surface), it creates under extraction, which lets in air and water through while brewing,” Jason noted. The most important thing is to get your espresso right, apparently, and whatever espresso-based drink you make will be great.

“A coffee tree takes five to seven years to yield good beans, and it only takes one barista to screw everything up,” concludes Jason.

Since 2002, Conlins Coffee has been recognized for its commitment to coffee. “We entered the market and created a ruckus in the coffee roasting industry because it brought with it what was missing — passion, focus and dedication for excellent coffee. Our founder focused on gathering excellent coffee, and carefully roasting and blending to allow each characteristic to be in perfect harmony with each other. The result is pure gold,” Conlins reveals in a statement.

“Great coffee doesn’t just happen, it is a process of skillful roasting that demands constant attention to balance and detail. Our combination of superb gourmet beans, expert roasting and our obsession with quality is the key to a great-tasting selection of coffee that simply has no equal,” Conlins declares.

And that, we must say, is that.

For more information on Conlins Coffee World Inc., visit Alessi Bonifacio High Street and Conlins Elements at Greenbelt 5 and Trinoma or call 552-3216 or 831-2729.