Splendor in the foie gras & other treats at Sofitel
Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Fashion, fusion, good food, good fortune, love, and a lot more are on the menu as Sofitel Philippine Plaza romances Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, and chinoiserie (triple sigh!).

We just couldn’t take our eyes off Patis Tesoro’s Shanghai beauties. You’re bound to fall in love with Patis’ “La Collection Rouge” for Rustan’s, featuring the dame of Philippine fashion’s signature handwoven piña embellished with a fabulous mix of embroidery, beadwork, and painting, all painstakingly and incredibly done by hand. Patis also spices up her 40-piece collection with luxurious evening dresses and her new line of up-cycled wear made of a mix and match of floral and geometric patterns.

In love with handcrafted fashion

“This year, fashion will be handcrafted,” reveals Patis, wearing her own exquisitely handcrafted Filipiniana dress. “People are going back to making things. In this time of so much trouble, you need to create, to do things with your hands so you can become more calmado. This is the year we’ll be creating things with our hands and our minds; it will be a good year.”

“‘The Chinoiserie a Sofitel Manila: La Collection Rouge of Paris Tesoro for Rustan’s’ is a perfect illustration of our desire to show the fusion of both the best of Filipino and French designs in the Philippines,” says Adam Laker, Sofitel Philippine Plaza general manager.

“La Collection Rouge” is at P2,880.25 net per person.  For more information and reservations, contact Sofitel Philippine Plaza Restaurant Reservations at h6308-fb12@sofitel.com and 551-5555.

Romance on the menu

Love, sweet love is in the air — and on the plate — as chef Bettina Arguelles cooks up an aphrodisiac affair to remember at the Spiral poolside. “I did some research on the food that’s most related to love, based on medical research,” says a beaming Bettina with a twinkle in her eyes.  “For example, oysters are high in zinc, which is good for blood circulation. Chocolates give us good, happy hormones and put us in a good mood.  Of course, I have items on the menu that are more symbolic of aphrodisiacs, like figs because they’re pear-shaped, like the shape of a woman, and they have seeds inside, which symbolize fertility. The fig leaf also represents modesty, like when Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.”

This season of hearts, it’s also easy to get cheesy at Spiral, as the cheese room highlights special cheeses. For instance, there’s Coeur de Neufchatel, a heart-shaped, soft, creamy, nutty, mushroom-y cheese covered with a velvety bloomy rind. “Its story is quite romantic,” Bettina begins to relate. “Traditionally, in France, the cheese crafters were men. But during the war, when the men all had to go to war, the women were left behind to produce the cheeses. It was said that when the women took over the cheese making, they made heart-shaped cheeses, wrapped them, and put them in the breast pockets of their husbands to lovingly send them off to war.”

For today’s affair, chef Bettina is making everybody smile and say “Cheese, please!” with her Coeur de Neufchatel encrusted in puff pastry for a creamy, dreamy, buttery cake.

Splendor in the foie gras

“Valentine’s Day is also a good opportunity for us to do some whimsical menu items,” notes Bettina.

Bettina is referring to her magret duck stuffed with foie gras with caramelized figs, micro herb salad, and balsamic bordelaise. As you probably know, foie gras is a decadent, luxurious food, which can surely put you in a sexy mood.

Bettina also has her poached asparagus with truffled egg, pancetta, and dashi consommé. According to the Vegetarian Society, nibbling asparagus for three days straight produces the most aphrodisiac effect. This spring, the pencil-sized veggie is packed with nutrients needed for healthy hormone production, and loaded with antioxidants to fight aging.

To kick off your P10,000+++ aphrodisiac affair for two at the Adam and Eve day bed by the poolside  is a lobster pomegranate salad with baby arugula, pine nuts, and port wine honey dressing. Lobster is rich in nutrients like protein, which boosts the body’s overall health, including sexual health. Pomegranate is full of antioxidants that support blood flow. Pine nuts have been believed to stimulate the libido since medieval times. An ancient medical scholar recommended eating 100 pine nuts before going to bed. Finally, wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that boosts blood flow and circulation. It also lowers inhibitions.

Get fresh at the canopy

For the P30,000+++ aphrodisiac affair for two at the canopy of the poolside, you can get fresh with the assorted offerings from the sea, like Fine de Claire oysters with yuzu (citrusy) pearls, lumpfish caviar, and apple blossoms. Researchers recently found that oysters are loaded with amino acids that trigger the production of sensual hormones.

On top of her lobster pomegranate salad and poached asparagus, there’s Chilean sea bass with lemon prawn ravioli, sea urchin bisque, and pepper foam. Did you know that the rind of a lemon contains essential oils that have mood-elevating properties?  Did you know that sea urchin is sexy and pleases the palate because it releases the feel-good hormone dopamine? And did you know that chili peppers are hot because they stimulate endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals?

Of course, as a sweet ending to your love affair with glorious V-Day food, there are the most sinfully delicious chocolates! But of course, chocolates are the aphrodisiac of choice for a lot of lovers all over the world.

“I suggest you book now, especially for the very exclusive dinner at the canopy by the seawall overlooking the bay, where there are only a dozen seats,” Bettina recommends. “We can get really full even two days before Valentine’s Day. It comes with a bottle of champagne and your own butler service.”

Don’t have a date on Valentine’s? Fret not. Celebrate singlehood at Le Bar’s Black Valentine’s, now in its third year. Minus the romance, have the time of your life with friends, from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Enter the year of the sheep

Now, what comes after Valentine’s Day? This year, Chinese New Year comes five days after V-Day.

With a sheepish grin, I ask executive sous chef Mok Chee Wah what food we should be eating in the Year of the Sheep. “Everything,” comes his quick reply.

Chef Mok is doing some “lucky” dishes on the side. He considers prawns a lucky food “because their shape is smiling.” He adds, “This year, people will be smiling more.”

On the other hand, the sea moss brings wealth because its Chinese translation (facai) means wealth.

For health, try the summery wintermelon, which is stuffed with nuts and steamed for two hours, oozing with its healthy juices.

For families to stick together, have some tikoy. Chef Mok has whipped up some caramel tikoy, coffee tikoy (using espresso coffee), and chocolate tikoy.

“For sweet luck, people should eat red bean soup with sweet dumpling,” chef Mok gives this soup-er tip. “For your business to get better, try raw fish salad.

And for long life, eat noodles.”

Chef Mok has prepared a special dish that caters to each zodiac sign. For instance, for the Horse (2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966) who’s independent, confident, loves to be the center of attention and can’t keep things secret, there’s wok-fried venison meat with red pepper in pepper sauce. For the Dragon (2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964) who’s flamboyant and has natural charisma, and gifted with luck, get some fire with the wok-fried lobster with chili sauce. For the Snake (2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965) who’s a thinker, a lover of fine food, and is always willing to help others, there’s steamed eel with pickle chili in soy sauce.

For the Sheep (2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967) who’s creative, talented, and loves to feel loved, there’s pan-fried lamb chop with rosemary sauce. For the Monkey (2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968) who’s quick-witted, mischievous, and determined to achieve his/her goals, there’s stuffing mini abalone and mushroom with minced shrimp in oyster sauce. For the Pig (2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971) who’s honest and patient but often shy and reserved, go the whole hog with the slow-cooked pork knuckle and sea moss in dried scallop sauce.

With these three red-letter offerings, February at Sofitel promises to be thrice as lovely — make that “loverly”!





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