Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi is someone who follows her heart on everything—with absolutely no reservations.
Steph—who happens to be a longtime dear friend and my sister-in-law—is devoted to family, from her parents and siblings, to the brood she is raising with her loving husband Jonathan.
Everyone should have a friend like Steph who is fun to be with, loyal and supportive.
But today, with your indulgence, let me talk about Steph the chef, writer and traveler.
She probably would never allow me to call her a chef, as she always refers to herself as a cook. But she attended Le Cordon Bleu for formal training, and has over a decade of hands-on experience in restaurants and catering, food and dining research and consultancy.
She also writes a column for a national newspaper and international publications, covering the culinary arts and travel scenes.
As far back as our high school days, she was already writing features and doing interviews for various publications. So, I wasn’t surprised when, a few years ago, she intimated her dream to write a book.
Labor of love
That time has finally come with the release of Steph’s year-long labor of love, “Feast with Me.”
But this is not your typical cookbook. “Feast with Me” does not consist of the typical appetizers, mains and desserts sections. It’s not just a collection of recipes. Rather, this is Steph’s heart and soul on paper.
In her book, Steph takes us on an adventure around the world. Her words assume a life of their own and fly off the pages. You accompany her virtually as she experiments with various flavors and cuisines.
As if the stories were not enough, there is the significant amount of wanderlust-inducing photographs that transport the reader, for instance, to the swirling, busy streets of India, the chic, secret corners of Paris, and, of course, the lush, paradise islands in the Philippines that we have long taken for granted.
More than a destination, each chapter is a journey to the feasts that characterize a country and its cuisine. The recipes are carefully curated, organized to allow the reader to have a complete menu that includes for wine pairings.
Steph, who holds a certified Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 3, makes sure that each wine pairing in her book is the product of careful study.
And being true to her passion for collecting and appreciating tableware and tablescapes, she treats the reader to unique settings that complement each cuisine for a complete experience.
Most memorable meals
However, when Steph invites us to “feast,” she doesn’t mean only the dressed-up type of feasting. She says her most memorable meals are not from the most expensive or exotic restaurants, but from the times she was surrounded by people she holds dearly—whether in a restaurant chosen on a whim during a family trip, or at the familiar dining table in her parents’ home.
Steph makes her book as much a family resource cook book. In case you are searching for a new dish for your own home, simply choose one or two items from the menus and watch them turn into your family’s new favorite comfort food.
“Feast with Me” is not a gourmet cookbook with ingredients found only in specialty shops.
On the contrary, each recipe’s ingredients can be easily sourced locally and fresh. One thing Steph insists on is the primary importance of fresh ingredients which can make or break a recipe.
Aside from the chapter “Casual Mediterranean Merienda,” a personal favorite of mine is the “Resource” part at the end of the book. This is a treasure trove of resource recipes and information you can use for everyday salad dressings, snack dips, desserts and crowd-pleasing wines.
Thus, this is more than a cookbook. The recipes are but part of the colorful back stories, culture and history that inspire the author to share with readers.
In essence, it’s what lies at the very core of Steph. Whether as family, friend, chef or writer, what moves this woman is her love of sharing a part of herself through words, food and the opening of her heart and home.
“Feast with Me,” by Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi, is available in soft- and hardbound copies, at select National Book Store and Power Books, and online at www.nationalbookstore.com and www.anvilpublishing.com