"A love for travel often comes with a love for good food and wine," I said tonight over dinner at Lolo Dad's Brasserie in Makati.
"Do you really think so?" Someone at my table asked. I nodded. At Travelife Magazine, we have so many readers who love to travel and who also love to eat -- and who also appreciate wine. Many of our contributors, too, write with passion about fantastic dining experiences all over the world. In previous issues, we've had great stories about trips to food markets in Europe, a quest for curries in northern Thailand, and -- in this current August-September 2010 issue -- the experience of eating the best sushi in the world. (Just in case you're wondering where that is, check out our latest issue at the newsstands...)
I'd just returned to Manila from Tokyo on Thursday and for tonight I'd accepted an invitation to join a wine-and-food pairing event involving Concha y Toro wines from Chile and a four-course dinner created by Chef Ariel Manuel especially for the occassion. Concha y Toro is perhaps Chile's largest and best-known wine producer, with a wide variety of wines ranging from inexpensive table wines like Sunrise and Fonterra to high-end premium wines like the Don Melchor and Carmenere wines that are still good value compared to quality Old World wines, but that would be considered pricey for South American wines.
I didn't think I'd know anyone except for one of the organizers, but I'd gamely agreed to attend anyway simply because it seemed like fun. Fortunately, when I walked in, I was shown to a table at the corner of the room, and already standing there was Hugo, Hugo, Minister of the South African Embassy and an old friend. We were to sit together at the table of the hosts, Lucio Cochanco Jr. and Philip Opiasa of Fly Ace Company.
"Long-time no-see," I teased him. We'd just seen each other 24 hours earlier, when -- fresh off the plane -- I'd gone straight to the National Day reception of the Embassy of Indonesia at the Shangri-la Makati. I saw him immediately upon arrival, and had had the pleasure of being introduced to the new lady Ambassador of South Africa, dressed in a beautiful black dress with vibrant colors all over, who'd just presented her credentials at Malacanan last week.
We began dinner with a chardonnay from the Marques de Casa Concha 2007 line, which had so much lemon flavor that I just couldn't wait to have a bite of seafood to go with it. Fortunately, we were served chilled scallops and shrimps with marinated salmon and mango quenelle as the appetizer. "It's an in-your-face type of wine," explained our hosts. The touch of lemon in the marinated salmon went especially well with the slight sour-saltiness in the chardonnay.
Our next course was a roasted Muscovy Duck breast with seared duck foie gras and a wonderful pastry puff filled with an asado of duck leg. The merlot from the same line that was served with it had a very solid texture and a heavy feel that I felt would have been just as good with more simple food such as a plate of cheese.
The piece de resistance, however, was the main course of a roast wagyu rib-eye coupled with stewed beef cheeks and a potato puree. Having just returned from Tokyo, where I'd had lots of wagyu, I guessed that this was an Australian wagyu rather than a Japanese wagyu because it was meaty and had very little fat on it. Meanwhile, the Japanese version usually has so much fat that you have to eat it with some kind of sauce, if you are to finish an entire steak at all. Otherwise, it's just too rich in taste and best eaten in small portions. Our wagyu entree, too, went excellently with the red wine selected, a cabernet sauvignon.
"The best wine is still to come," Lucio warned us. He was referring to the Carmenere, also of the Marques de Concha 2007 line, and incidentally a great favorite of his. "Sometime I just have this with some cheese, when I'm at home," he revealed. Well, that night, we enjoyed the Carmenere with a sinfully rich dark Valrhona chocolate and shaved almond terrine and a tiny scoop of vanilla almond ice cream.
The Carmenere was indeed lovely, and our waiter was not shy with refills. "Thank goodness it's a Friday night," I said. I didn't count how many glasses I had had, but I had a feeling they were bordering on plenty. And on that sweet note and with that lovely wine, I excused myself and headed home thinking: "What a great way to start the weekend."
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