I am thrilled to present my Valentine picks for 2021!
Have a taste of the Hana, a lovely solitary rose made with air-flown, never chilled sashimi of otoro, hamachi or salmon. The fancy Valentine edible masterpiece is made complete by generous servings of grade-A uni, ikura, a sprinkling of vegetable confetti and gold leaf for that final touch of bling.
Should you fancy a sashimi bouquet instead, indulge in Saku, rows of pretty, juicy, pristine tasting premium sashimi flowers in otoro, hamachi and salmon blossoms.
For that luxurious VD celebration, Polaris flew in the most treasured Gillardeau, Tarbouriech and Fine de Claire oysters. They as well have the best varieties of farmed caviar from France, Italy and South America. (Tel. 0908-8123462; @polarisfinefoods on Instagram)
Say it with… mushrooms
Mouldy Blooms first piqued my curiosity when I chanced upon their pink oyster mushrooms. The first batch for commercial release will be available this Valentine weekend.
From chef Iyay Ignacio, the lady behind Mouldy Blooms, I received the most unusual Valentine present: three pearl mushroom grow kits in a pretty tote bag, complete with everything you need to successfully grow and harvest your own. Her oysters mushrooms are huge, meaty and delicious! So worth buying or growing them. (@mouldyblooms on Instagram)
The most romantic cakes I’ve seen this season are baked by chef Kerri Gail Ong Guico of the Baking Room.
To receive any of her creations is like receiving flowers and a cake in one; if you’re lucky, you might even receive the 24k Romance Cake, a moist Belgian chocolate cake with bittersweet ganache, fully covered with 24k edible gold leaf embellished with edible flowers.
I am enamored by the beauty of La Fleur Couture, a true work of art! The vanilla chiffon cake, layered with velvety smooth cream cheese frosting, is sculpted to look like a giant rose using lumpia wrappers to simulate the petals.
Guico’s Pétales d’ Amour is dreamy! An elegant Belgian chocolate cake dressed in edible rose petals. (@chefkerrisbakingroom on Instagram)
Multiawarded Philippine chocolate maker Malagos Chocolates of Davao recently launched their latest products.
Cacao juice is my newfound drink of choice. On ice, it is refreshingly complex. The juice is the liquid that comes from the pulp of the fruit. It is available only in limited quantities, as the drippings aren’t a lot.
It has no resemblance to what our mind (perhaps) perceives cacao juice to taste. Instead, it is light and subtle. Fruity, floral and sweet.
Cacao juice has been compared to a cocktail of guyabano, mango and red fruits, though to me it’s closest to lychee, but not quite. Its character is like that of buko juice that’s unique in itself and can’t be compared.
Cacao juice enhances and makes an interesting addition to gin, as it mixes well with tequila!
Malagos Porter Beer pairs beautifully with desserts. It is a high gravity porter, a complex, multilayered malt with chocolate flavors.
The palate detects roasted malt, hints of black currant and dark fruits. The character lent by the fresh, fruity toasted cacao nibs is this porter’s highlight. It is medium-bodied, mouth filling and velvety smooth, with a dry finish. The Malagos Porter Beer makes a satisfying night cap. (Tel. 89242730, 0917-5612192)
Kazunori Japanese Restaurant’s head chef Kuramochi Kazunori infuses internationally awarded Philippine chocolate, Auro, into his Valentine menu.
The dishes of interest to me are Chocolate Gyu Curry Don, a dish made with New York beef marinated in a selection of Auro cacao butter, cacao powder, and nibs. It is served with rice capped with a 64-percent dark chocolate dome. A curry sauce, once more laced with chocolate, is poured over the dish at the guest’s table.
Tori Chashu Cacao Tsukemen is a fresh take on the classic dipping ramen. Imagine Auro cacao powder-infused noodles, dipped in the chef’s special broth, paired with chicken, pork and egg. The dish is topped with shavings of Auro 32-percent white chocolate. (Tel. 0917-8362695)
Sorbet with ‘issues’
When Ian Carandang of Sebastian’s Ice Cream says he has new flavors, I wait with bated breath. In my book, he’s a genius who manages to keep his creations exciting and new, often creating flavors never thought possible for ice creams and sherbets.
He is the inventor of the green mango sherbet with bagoong and the one who dared to churn kakanin into ice cream. I am a huge fan of his Christmas bibingka and puto bumbong ice creams.
A staple in his Valentine collection is Unresolved Issues, an ampalaya-flavored sorbet that I personally find so refreshing.
Made with fresh ampalaya, the sherbet tastes true to the gourd; its bittersweetness is what makes it pleasant to me.
In Ian’s words, “sweet but you can still feel the bitterness coming through, like a long-held grudge that one refuses to let go of.”
For the not-so-daring, try the Strawberry Cream Ice Cream Cake. The February special is pleasant. It is both sweet and tangy and makes a perfect ending to a decadent meal, as it renews and refreshes the palate with every bite.
A spiced cake topped with a double layer of sweet cream ice cream and strawberry sorbet, it is finished with buttery oat streusel and lashings of white chocolate. (@sebastiansicecream)
Liquid chef Kalel Demetrio and Destileria Barako enchant this Valentine with Gayuma Liqueur, a craft spirit made in small batches with sugarcane and secret ingredients from the flavor library of Agimat at Ugat Distillery Bar. It is blended with Southeast Asian lychee and Batangas lemongrass. The lychee rind gives it a natural, vibrant pinkish hue.
Kalel shared his Valentine concoction, the Gayuma ng Pag-asa.
Gayuma ng Pag-asa
30 ml Gayuma Liqueur
30 ml Agimat Gin
60 ml dalandan juice
10 ml pineapple liqueur
15 ml Sampaguita syrup
Mix and strain. Serve in highball with ice. Garnish with burnt cinnamon.