Have you ever found yourself wanting to host a dinner at home but couldn’t, because it would take too much of an effort? Or probably you’ve walked into a beautiful home and wished that you could rent it even for a night to host a party with friends.
If you’d rather not hold your party in a restaurant, where else could you hold one? A hotel suite would be too expensive, an events venue too big.
With these hosting woes in mind, some people have decided to open their homes for private dinners. Some welcome blind calls, others require a common friend’s referral. But the idea is to “borrow” someone’s home for the night so you can host that dinner where you can show off your Martha Stewart skills, your boyfriend’s Bobby Flay burgers or your best friend’s bartending expertise.
One of the pioneers of this concept is Claude Tayag. After persistent requests and cajoling from friends, Claude and foodie wife Mary Ann opened their Pampanga home, Bale Dutung, for private dinners. The concept remains the same to this day: The private home is made available by reservation only, to a minimum number of diners, with a menu chosen before the event. Of course, after much publicity and a good word from no less than Anthony Bourdain, Esquire UK’s Tom Parker Bowles and the Miele Guide, reservations have been a-plenty.
A few years later, corporate chef and chairman of the National Food Showdown Myrna Segismundo opened her own home kitchen in New Manila for private dinners. This was more than welcome news because in spite of her popularity, Chef Myrna has remained loyal to ABS-CBN’s exclusive corporate dining establishment 9501. Opening her home meant that we non-Kapamilya plebeians would have access to her cooking. Plus, you can even have cooking lessons with her.
In the past few months, more venues for private dinners have surfaced.
Aleth Ocampo has opened her Magallanes home, which used to be the residence of no less than Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos, for private dinners—but only upon referral from friends, for security reasons. Aleth was one of the creators of the fashion outlet Sari Sari Store and the Sari Sari restaurant. Unfortunately, the Sari Sari resto is no more but you can still have a taste of Aleth’s cooking at her very own home. The venue is very chic, with a relaxed sense of opulence about it—a few BenCabs, white walls and a pool. You can prepare your own dishes, or you can discuss your desired menu with her. Aleth specializes in savories and learned from the best: no less than Ninoy Aquino’s sister Maur Aquino-Lichauco, for cooking basics when she was but in her pre-teen years and finishing school in Montreux, Switzerland. After college, her next mentor was Gene Gonzalez at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies. Plus, Aleth makes the most amazing Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies that are absolutely to die for. This is the perfect venue when you are trying to impress.
Also in Magallanes is Dedet dela Fuente-Santos’ private dining place whose menu, please be warned, is a little over the top. The reservation is for a 14-course degustation menu that includes balut pate and balut salpicao for starters, three stuffed lechons, two desserts and a “cholesterol sweeper.” The lechon may be stuffed with varieties of rice (binagoongan rice, sisig rice, laing rice, even truffled rice!), potatoes, machang. You could also try to sway Dedet to accommodate other lechon stuffing requests. I highly recommend this venue for lunch rather than dinner, simply because your body needs time to process all that food before you sleep. And do come hungry; you need all the space for the goodies.
Down south in Parañaque is a more traditional menu but with equally enjoyable flavors. Manny Torrejon’s Manolo’s serves Spanish cuisine that has respected foodies unanimously raving about “this little by-reservation-only place in Parañaque.” Manny serves paella valenciana, mariscos, porchetta (highly recommended!), boquerones and salpicao, among other Spanish classics. The place is nothing fancy, though. Here, there is one star of the show: the food. But it’s the kind of diva worth sacrificing for.
For ambience, there is New World Hotel’s M2M Cafe. It’s like dining in a chi-chi wine cellar as a glass wall divides this private room from the buffet section at the hotel lobby. New World’s new executive chef, Ivan Chieregatti, is Italian and makes amazing modern dishes, such as a triptych of fish starter that uses squid ink and is presented as a plate of art. Or foie gras on shrimp with raspberry essence. The wine selection is also impressive. Make sure to get recommendations from F&B Manager Phil Underwood who is impeccable when it comes to wine pairing. Of course the fancy food fare and the fancy venue make for a fancy price: P3,800++ per head sans wine. But like a pair of Louboutins, it should be worth it.
Then again, there’s your good ol’ residence. You can take it as an opportunity to clean the house and show off your cooking skills, or you can have fun with a themed potluck party. You can just download menus off the Internet.
So throw that party and enjoy. At the end of the day, whatever the cost, wherever the venue, memories of good food and good times with good friends are priceless!