Everyday fruits make attractive table topiaries

Czarina Ledesma says flavor should be in both food and presentation

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“If it adds flavor to the food, it must add flavor to the table.”

Such is events stylist Czarina Ledesma’s main reason for choosing everyday fruits she fashions into table topiaries. She and business partner Farah Tolentino-Ylagan, a Paris-trained chef, own and manage a fledgling catering company called Madeleine.

During a recent dinner Madeleine catered for Inquirer editors, Ledesma went for her idea of an elegant and unisex setup combining gray and emerald green elements in the form of matte silver candleholders, lacquered silver plate chargers and calamansi topiaries.

Centerpieces were placed on top of a square mirror tray. To soften a rather masculine arrangement, Ledesma spruced it up with long-stemmed calla lilies in tall glass vases.

“The arrangement is in keeping with our serious side,” she said. “We pay attention to every detail. Even our tablecloths and runners were customized for us. They’re unique to our own catering company.”

The choice of countless deep green calamansi balled and stuck on concealed floral foams was both for aesthetic and “nationalistic” reasons.

“I think the color green adds a lot of freshness to the entire arrangement,” said Ledesma. “We also wanted to be a bit nationalistic by using a native fruit.”

She has used all sorts of fruits and vegetables as materials for her table arrangements in the past, from lemons to tomatoes. During one event, she even used red bell peppers.

It was no coincidence that these materials are also some of Ylagan’s handy companions in bringing out or enhancing a dish’s natural flavors.

Ledesma herself studied hotel and restaurant management in Switzerland. The two women have known each other for years through Ledesma’s sister.

“We teamed up just a little over two months ago,” said Ledesma. “We call ourselves boutique caterers. But individually, we’ve been in the industry for quite some time now.”

Since the two did “luxury-division” catering, they only attended to select groups of clients before. Now that they’ve joined forces, Ledesma and Ylagan decided to make their offerings more affordable without allowing quality to suffer.

“We still maintain our respective businesses,” said Ylagan, who speaks fluent French after living in Paris for six years. “But when we work together, we go by the name Madeleine.”

From P6,000 per plate packages for groups of 12 people, Ylagan, through Madeleine, now does more affordable packages ranging from P800 to P2,000 for bigger groups of up to 200 people.

For the Inquirer dinner, Ylagan whipped up what she described as typical French fare: pea and cauliflower soup; green salad with vinaigrette; mushroom crepe; lemon garlic shrimp pasta with capers; chicken stewed in red wine; and fish with herbs, bread crumbs and fresh tomato sauce.

“The mushroom crepe consists of seven layers,” she said. “For a more nuanced flavor, I used a medley of mushrooms such as shitake, oyster and bottle mushrooms. The food is very Provençal.”

For inquiries, call Madeleine at (632) 621-9295 and 0917-8257701

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