I know Christmas is near when everyday food takes on fancier forms, such as the following recent indulgences.
Divine Delizie Sicilian chocolates are filled with a soft ganache blended with a reduction of Nero d’Avola, Zibibbo, or Marsala wine which are native to Sicily.
I’m in love with the Zibibbo. The perfectly tempered dark chocolate shell snaps beautifully once bitten into. Slowly, a white chocolate ganache (blended with a Zibibbo wine reduction) oozes out.
Tucked somewhere in the center is a dried grape. The fruit caps the sublime and delicate experience, lending texture and a tender juicy bite. Chocolate nirvana!
The delectable bonbons are carefully made by Rosa Scudera, a lawyer from the city of Gela (Caltanissetta) in the Italian region of Sicily. Rosa was inspired by the popular European liqueur-filled chocolates but opted instead to use her beloved regional wines as fillings.
Divine Delizie Sicilian chocolates, paired with a glass of La Castellina Vin Santo, are a guilty pleasure like no other. The sweet dessert wine is full-bodied. On the nose, it hints of honey and dried fruit. On the palate, it is a rich caramel.
Vin Santo (perhaps because it translates to “wine of saints” or Holy Wine) pairs extraordinarily well with these chocolates. Together, the experience comes full circle. For the taste buds, they represent a whole, rounded, completely satisfying moment.
Divine Delizie Sicilian chocolates, plus a bottle of La Castellina Vin Santo, are an ideal gift for epicures who have everything.
Available at Massimo Trulli Fashion, Food
and Wine Concept Store, LRI Design Plaza,
210 Nicanor Garcia St., Bel-Air II, Makati;
tel. 8329600 and 09154181407
Pastéis de Nata
Possibly the most delicious Portuguese egg tarts in Manila are made by Portuguese national Joao Branquinho of Belinyas, the company behind Portuguese pastel de nata, known in Asia as egg tart.
Warm and freshly baked, its crust is flaky, crunchy and crumbly. The egg custard, a smooth flan, tastes neither too sweet nor too rich.
It even has the emblematic charred spots caused by the high temperature the tarts are baked in. The dark circles over the custard give the tart a lightly smoked finish.
I’m equally taken by the cheese tarts. The puff pastry base, like that of the egg tarts, is crunchy and crisp. The crusts are filled with a smooth cheese mixture, a perfect balance of tart and sweet with a whisper of citrus.
I call Joao for many things other than tarts. I believe he also makes the best piri-piri chicken, especially when he caters and grills it in his huge chicken roaster before your eyes.
And he likewise makes tasty bacalao.
Of Joao’s many preoccupations, it’s his quest to find decent wines at reasonable prices that I find commendable.
This year, he has the Quinta da Alorna. This vino tinto is easy to drink, with a pleasant finish. Ruby red, slightly spiced and fruity, it is excellent with cured meats. Thus it’s a perfect all-around holiday wine for you to indulge in with finger food and lively conversation. And at P475 a bottle, it’s quite a bargain!
Joao has excellent port wines, too.
White Truffle Honey Cake
Annabel Tanco and her team have turned their fascination for truffle into an exquisite cake.
The White Truffle Honey Cake is a special, ultra-soft genoise with a truffle and honey filling. It has bits of croquantine for crunch, iced with cream and white chocolate ganache.
It is my preferred cake for the season, as it spells simple elegance for the eyes and for the buds.
Available at Bizu outlets; tel. 8450590-93
My dear friend chef James Antolin bakes Tochi cookies, which are soft and moist in the center—fudgy, gooey yet chewy. It is all that you wish a chocolate cookie would be.
Tochi cookies come in Salted Macadamia, Espresso Walnut, Matcha (green tea), Peanut Butter and, my favorite, Double Chocolate Chip. Each bite reminds me of an old-fashioned chocolate cake, but in the form of a well-executed chocolate chip cookie.
Tel. 09107226743 and 09178010038
Johanna Lao’s Nacho Dip
I recommend this for potluck parties. Johanna’s dip is as beautifully presented as it is delicious and fresh.
Imelda Tan’s Galantine Loaf is a flashback to Christmases past. It is smooth, with chunks of pickles, eggs and carrots. I love how the slivered pickles on top cuts through the richness of the galantine. Homemade goodness in every bite!