People open restaurants because the owners feel they can offer dishes that will draw diners in. A dish’s popularity is credited mostly to its creator, but many times determined by diners.
A native-fare restaurant, Barrio Fiesta, has long been known for kare-kare and crispy pata (still the best today).
The menu of our restaurant in the ’70s, Au Bon Vivant, was created by French chefs and my mom. The French onion soup, Poulet Grand-Mere, Chateaubriand Bearnaise, and almond mousse became bestsellers.
When I was writing the menu of Wooden Spoon and, later, Casa Daza, I had no idea how diners would receive it. I just included what I love to eat.
What became bestsellers were the crab pancit, crispy dinuguan, century egg salad, adobo flakes, sigarilyas, stuffed pechay, and chili squid.
Every so often, an idea will pop up in my head and I’m back to the drawing board to do something new for my restaurants.
I’m on a perpetual diet. I’ve tried all kinds of diet plans. Some have worked, others haven’t. I try all kinds of techniques like have a very light dinner.
In Japan, I went to a 100-yen shop and got some delicious sardines, which, eaten with whole wheat crackers, can pass for an evening meal.
Recently, I developed a cauliflower fried rice recipe, which is served at Wooden Spoon and Casa Daza. I happen to eat it every day for lunch.
In my intermittent fasting, I stop eating at 7 or 8 p.m. My next meal is the following day at 12 noon.
A friend, Dr. Tere Pascual, encourages me to fast for 24 hours, once a week.
In my restaurants, I would have cauliflower as rice substitute and a viand, like chicken curry, binagoongan, squid chili, humba, or dinakdakan.
I also like the chili-hot dish Bicol Express but it has to be eaten with plain hot rice. Now, because of the cauliflower fried rice, I can have Bicol Express more often.
At Casa Daza, I have developed an empanada you would die for. This is a recipe we used to do at Maharlika restaurant in New York.
This is your flaky type of empanada stuffed with ground beef and pork. It is such a winner, modesty aside.
Those who’ve tried it are suggesting I come up with a healthier chicken version. And I have been developing a variety of fillings: corned beef, tuna and vegetarian.
Wooden Spoon, Power Plant Mall, tel. 4033585; Casa Daza, UP Town Center, Quezon City, tel. 7202290, 0906-4030804