The Culinary Versatility of the US Frozen Potato
Marlinda Angbetic Tan (The Freeman) - December 2, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines – It barely felt like a year has passed by from when we first had an amazing discovery of the versatility of the US Frozen Potato. It was nice to meet again Reji and Evelyn of USPB Philippines, as well as Ms. Susan Weller, US Potato Board's International Marketing Manager. This time, they were joined by gentleman farmer Carl Hoverson of the US Potato Growers, who shared first-hand insights on the complexity and the variety of produce (russets, yellow, red and purple) in potato farming. By the way, potato - it was pointed out - has more potassium, vitamins B and C than banana or broccoli.

Like last year, a select group of food writers from Cebu and Manila went on a three-day safari to savor what local chefs have created by using US frozen potato products in the menu. First stop was dinner on Day 1.

The Suite Room on the 4th level of the Ayala Mall Expansion.  At the helm of this classy cove is a scion of one of Carcar Heritage Town's old families - the Noels. Chef Carlo Noel's table d'hote starter had candied US Potato as delightful crunchy notes to the Mixed Greens and Grapes Salad in an interesting dressing of strawberry vinaigrette.

First entree was Truffled US Frozen Mashed and Bacon Ravioli, which I paired with a glass of Merlot. The ravioli was so savory!

Second entree was a Home-made Meatloaf (an heirloom recipe, chef?) and Truffled US Frozen Mashed sprinkled with Crispy Fries. This highlights the versatility of the potato, attaining two different tastes in a dish.

For dessert, the Candied Potato made a grand comeback as an accompaniment to the sinful Caramel Macchiato.

Lunch on Day 2 was at Cebu's newest casual dining destination with a fin d'siecle ambiance - Circa 1900. Part-owner and Executive Chef Steve Shrimski regularly comes up with unusual culinary blends that reflect his 30 years' experience in such places as Australia, Vanauatu, Tinian Island in the Marianas, Myanmar, China and Thailand, as Executive Chef or as qualified commercial cookery trainer.

A refreshing soup opened our appetites: Crispy Redatone Canyon Potato Spirals in Lemon Myrtle & Ginger Infused Seafood Chowder. As it was served in demitasse portion, one could not help but savor it to the last drop.

Accompanying wine was an Australian Tatachilla Growers Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which was so soothing, on a hot noonday.

Then came Chef Steve's Triple Treat: a to-die-for mix of Crushed Crispy Triangle Potato Patties, Crispy & Spiced Chicken Skin Chicharon, bits of Chicken Liver & Gizzard, slivers of Chinese Sausage, Chorizo slices and Cashew nuts; then, some Fripa Crinkle Cut Potato Chips with a delightful tangy dip of blue cheese, bacon and sour cream; finally, Baked Redstone Canyon Cross Trax using the Frozen Basket Weave with Organic Black Wild Rice and Vegetable Mousse Burger in Cocodobo Sauce.  The sauce is a winner!

Switching to red wine for the next course, we had the Italian Talamonti "Tavo" Pinot Grigio (this is a vintage I discovered in Yarra Valley, Victoria). The wine accompanied the Original 1853 Chips, Spiced in Asian Style Caesar with Yellow Miso Aioli (excellently mild!), Shaved Parmesan, Mandarin Sausage, Bonito (Japanese shaved tuna) and Quail Egg.

Ore-Ida Golden Patties were fitting accompaniment to the Encrusted Barramundi (sea bass) and Garlic Lemon Grilled Prawn in Malunggay/Arugula Pesto.

Before switching to red meat, we had a delicious Cucumber Shot as palate cleanser. Truly making the tongue ready for a new round of tastes.

Last wine was a Spanish Tempranillo - Concheros y Criadores "Infinitus," to pair off with Harvest Splendor Sweet Potato Sticks (chef's note: russet potato has high density, so it does not absorb oil and turn soggy) on Crunchy Slow Roast Pork Belly with an Apple Fennel Compote. The lovely marmalade on the side was mashed potato and stewed apple bits. Accenting this dish was a scrumptious twirled chicken chicharon, while the caramelized onions with black olives and sweet potato successfully highlighted the flavor of the roast pork.

Closing a leisurely midday repast were Caramelized Ore-Ida Golden Patties with Maja Blanca Cheesecake and Malungay Ice Cream.

As what Chef Steve promised at the start of the adventure, everything was served in small portions, paced at an even keel, so we were able to savor all the dishes on the menu without feeling over satiated.

Bravo, Chef Steve! It was culinary magic from start to finish.

The US Frozen Potato Special Menu will be served at The Suite Room and Circa 1900 January until March 2015.

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