Puey Quiñones will go down in my book as the first person to succeed in making me eat Bicol express. And bopis.
It was lunch on a scorching summer day and Quiñones paired his offerings with hot white rice. The Bopis (diced pig lungs and heart, simmered in fresh coconut milk and mixed with five spices and green Thai chili) was good, but it was his Bicol Express (thinly sliced pork belly simmered in fresh coconut milk and topped with green Thai chili) that I loved. It was so good that I kept thinking about it for days. I asked myself—why did I resist so long?
Then that it would be the start of a pattern—that, just a couple of weeks later, Quiñones would manage to make me eat more food I’ve never wanted to try before and actually enjoy it.
People know Quiñones as a fashion designer. But the closest to him know of his other talent—cooking.
Growing up in Samar, Quiñones said his family didn’t have a lot of food. “Super hirap namin, deprived kami sa food. I had to be creative. Kung anong meron sa kitchen gagawan mo ng paraan para makakain ka. I used to eat oil and rice and add toyo for flavor.”
The lack of food fueled his passion for it. “As a 6-year-old, I used to watch the rice cooking. It was fascinating.”
Quiñones was 10 when his family got its first stove. Before that, they used charcoal to cook. When he was in high school, Quiñones’ parents asked him to prepare the family meals often. “I would make tinolang hipon, favorite ko ’yon noong bata ako.”
When he moved to Manila to work for his aunt and her business partner fashion designer Dennis Lustico, Quiñones kept his love for food and his family recipes with him.
“Food is my drug, food is my life. I can make fashion, I can create fashion. But food feeds me, food feeds my soul,” he said. While people in the fashion world spend money on clothes, bags and shoes, Quiñones would rather splurge on food.
He remembers spending his first paycheck as a designer on food. “I ate at Prince Albert. I always wanted to try foie gras so I did.”
Quiñones doesn’t just enjoy eating food, he loves cooking for family and friends. And while he continues to design, he’s been dreaming of starting a food business for a while now; he wants more people to taste his food. Enter Andrew Rivera.
Rivera, who moved here from Los Angeles and is now a bartender/model, was also looking for a business to start. “I met Quiñones a while ago and when I was considering my options, he talked about wanting to go into food. I said, why not?”
Rivera loves Quiñones’ food. “I usually have a dish I like and I overdose on it and end up not liking it after a month. I don’t get that with Puey’s food. Maybe it’s because of the variety. And his food is so flavorful. The flavors are intense. Eating his food is an experience.”
His favorites include the Pasta Aligue (spaghetti noodles topped with aligue sauce, Spanish sardines, Italian seasoning, black olives, parsley and parmesan cheese); Native Chicken (which Quiñones serves two ways—Tinola or Adobo sa Gata); and Salted-Egg Salad.
The two are now partners and their roles are clear. Quiñones focuses on the food and makes magic in the kitchen, while Rivera is the investor and takes care of the business side.
“We call it Puey’s Penthouse,” said Rivera. “The original idea was for people to make a reservation, come to Puey’s home and we’ll host dinner for them. We can provide a relaxing dining atmosphere. We’ll entertain you. You can hang out with your friends and have really good food.”
They accept reservations for a minimum of 10 people. Dinner includes appetizer, salad, three main courses and a glass of wine for each guest. There are different menus to choose from: Filipino (Pasta Aligue, Pochero, Caldereta, Bicol Express, Bulalo, Crispy Pata); Samar (Pinangat with Crispy Catfish, Ginataang Bopis, Humba, Escabeche, Tinolang Native Chicken, Native Chicken Adobo sa Gata); and Continental (Scampi Pasta Aioli, Roasted Garlic Chicken, Old-School Pork Chops, Slow-Roasted Pork Belly, Pan-Roasted Porgy and Fennel Salad).
The cost is P800 or P900 per head, depending on the dishes you pick.
Quiñones doesn’t think he’ll have problems juggling his two roles. He says fashion and food are very similar.
Roasted garlic chicken
We got a taste of Puey’s Penthouse one Thursday. The incredible meal started with Salted-Egg Salad (sliced salted egg wedges with tomato, ripe mango, cilantro and four kinds of vinegar). Of all of those ingredients, I only eat two things—mango and cilantro. I am not a fan of vinegar and I hate salted egg.
“Just try,” Quiñones said. I picked up my fork and left my taste buds’ comfort zone. Quiñones didn’t just create a refreshing salad that was very Pinoy in taste, he also managed to make me enjoy salted eggs, vinegar and fresh tomatoes, something I never thought was possible.
The meal continued with Roasted Garlic Chicken (slow-roasted chicken coated with olive oil, coated in pesto sauce and rosemary leaves then stuffed with lemongrass, garlic and onion), prepared beautifully.
“This is couture,” Quiñones joked as he carved the chicken. It was so good, my mouth still waters just thinking about it. It was incredibly moist and flavorful. The baby potatoes and roasted garlic cloves complemented the chicken. I’ve had a lot of roasted chickens in my life but nothing quite like it.
Like Bicol express and bopis, laing is a dish I’ve never been intrigued by. But Quiñones’ Pinangat with Crispy Catfish (wrapped taro leaves simmered with coconut milk and sprinkled with fried crispy catfish) also changed my mind. I enjoyed the spicy kick and how the crispiness of the catfish lent the dish an extra dose of texture.
The Humba (tenderized pork belly boiled then simmered in soy sauce and vinegar and mixed with laurel leaves, star anise and dried bamboo shoots) is a favorite of his friends. That Thursday, we realized why. It was rich and flavorful and the pork was fall-off-the-bone tender. Quiñones says his Humba is the combination of his grandmother’s and father’s recipes.
People who want to enjoy his cooking don’t need to bring a party of 10. Quiñones and Rivera also do catering. Their recent clients include Kate Torralba, Maureen Disini, Candy Dizon and Bonnie Tan. People can also choose to order trays of dishes individually.
The two have also introduced Andrew’s Meal—affordable office meals. “This is Puey’s Penthouse’s ready-to-wear line,” said Quiñones. The meals can be delivered to offices in and near Makati.
Rivera said, “For Makati, we have a minimum of 10 orders per office. Outside Makati, the minimum will be higher. The great thing is the person who takes his officemates’ orders and calls us will get their lunch for free.” Orders should be made a day in advance.
They have a good variety of dishes available, from Ginataang Bopis, Humba and Bicol Express to BBQ Chicken, Ginataang Tilapia and Pork Binagoongan. The meals range from P45 (Laing and rice) to P105 (Fish Fillet with Pesto Sauce). All meals come with rice.
For Quiñones, Puey’s Penthouse is more than just a business, it’s a chance for him to share his passion for good food and the rich culture of his beloved Samar.
Call Puey’s Penthouse at 5476155 or 0928-7309372; e-mail [email protected] Visit www.facebook.com/pueyspenthouse. Orders and reservations should be made three days in advance.