Country Cooking

Like a party that didn’t want to end

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Jamón Serrano carving station

Almost every last Friday of the month, there’s Wine and Tapas Night at the Mandarin Oriental Manila Deli. It isn’t a formal, sniff-sniff sort of affair with costumed attendees in long gowns and black ties. It’s informal, with drink-all-you-can on the featured wines and eat-all-you-can appetizers.

I’m glad I was reminded of this offering, a “Thank God it’s Friday” for those who like to chill with friends.

Last month, the Friday before Holy Week, it was Spanish tapas with Torres Wines distributed by Future Trade. Entering through the Deli, the place was full and I wondered where I could sit because one couldn’t even stand at the bar (there is no bar)—like one does at Spanish tapas places. There were tables at the corridor, but they were also full. Apparently, the wine night proved quite popular that the crowd had spilled over to the Lounge.

Jamon Serrano

But the Deli is where the main tapas buffet can be found, highlighted by a Jamon Serrano leg. There were other cold cuts to choose from, as well as Spanish cheeses. Cabrales cheese from Asturias was placed on roasted onions. There was a confit of piquillo peppers. And there were roasted vegetables Catalan-style or escalivada—a confit of wild mushrooms and an eggplant egg cake or tortilla.

You can stick to one type of drink or choose to mix them, depending on what you’re eating. We kept coming back for the Torres Gran Viña Sol because it was suitable to the hot weather.

SALMON with diced apples

But we also had the Coronas and the Sangre de Toro, also familiar since the time—ages ago—Miguel Torres visited and charmed all the ladies at the table, and then gifted me several Christmases after with turrones almendras made in his Spanish vineyard.

Dinner in small servings

There are more tapas available that the Deli buffet couldn’t contain, and they spilled over as well to a table at the lounge. It was almost like having dinner in small servings: soup, a gazpacho with bread (hogaza—barramundi pieces in green sauce); roasted salmon; and the most filling—very good salpicao made from US rib eye.

The main chefs of the Mandarin were there to take charge and to assist the guests on that Friday evening. I noticed that while there were groups, there were also solos at cocktail tables enjoying the fare.

The wine night is supposed to be from 7 to 10 p.m. only, but it seemed like the party didn’t want to end. After all, there were still wines to taste like the Torres San Valentin, made from the traditional Parillada grapes and was a gift of Miguel Torres to his wife on Valentine’s Day.

That should have gone well with the dessert of churros con chocolate, crema Catalan and brazo de mercedes. I wish I had tasted the wine but my head could only hold so much. I wish I had read about the San Valentin beforehand because a story about the wine makes for a more interesting experience.

Wiser

This April’s wine night is tomorrow. Much wiser now, I read about the wines offered. Carmen wines from Chile (distributed by Best Beverages) was talked about in 1994 when it was

PETER Pysk, Mandarin Oriental, Manila, director of food and beverage, pours the featured wines.

found that the Carmenere, a red variety from France believed to be extinct due to phylloxera (a disease that wiped out many grape varieties), was growing there, resulting in the award-winning Carmen Reserva Grande Vidure in 1996.

I hope that at least the simpler Carmen Carmenere will be offered.

Expect Chilean tapas to go with the wines, some quite similar to the tapas of Spain. Some of them are empanadas de pino (ground beef and egg pastry), red snapper ceviche, costillar de chancho (baked pork spare ribs), sopapilla (pumpkin fritters).

Mandarin Oriental Manila Wine Night, P1,200+; reservations, 7508888.

E-mail the author at pinoyfood04@yahoo.com

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