Saturday, December 4, 2010

Secrets from a wine cellar

Last Saturday night, a couple of friends got together at Masseto, one of our favorite restaurants in this city, for a dinner created by Tippi Tambunting -- one of Manila's young and talented chefs -- accompanied by a vertical tasting of Leoville Barton. Three couples brought a specific vintage each of Leoville Barton (1996, 1999 and 2004), while we brought the champagne to start off the evening: a bottle of Jacquesson which we were specifically assigned to buy for the occassion.

A Salon de Ning hangover

Having quite a hangover in every sense of the word from the fabulous Salon de Ning opening party the previous night (read our previous entry on the most stylish launch event of the year), we were certainly not pysched for another serious round of food and drinks. But the dinner had been planned for a long time and we were certainly looking forward to at least catching up with friends.

Well, any hesitation at merrymaking almost immediately disappeared the moment we set foot in Masseto. Tippi had prepared a wonderful menu which we sat down to with gusto at 8 pm: a lovely salad, a very delicious bouillabaise with seafood that was so incorporated into the broth but not at all rubbery as a result of it, and lamb that had been slow-roasting in the oven for over seven hours. The dessert too was a killer: a sampler that included a sugar crepe with ice cream, a chocolate tart, and bread pudding. The chocolate tart was just so amazingly good that I was about to order another; fortunately, some of the others were thinking of calories, so they passed on their chocolate tarts to me.

Tippi's Masseto menu for us

Mixed greens, pecorino flan and pears
7-hour roasted lamb with couscous and french beans
Dessert sampler of bread pudding, chocolate hazelnut tart,
and butter & sugar crepe with vanilla ice cream

* * *

Wine list on iPads

Later on, Tippi came out of the kitchen and sat around with us, chatting and catching up on events and activities. One of the first things she did was show us Masseto's new set of cool iPads in brown leather cases with M embossed on the cover. These weren't for guests to surf the web or Facebook, though; but this was the now going to be the way customers would order their wines at the restaurant. The opening "page" of the application features alcohol categories, and then by navigating the iPad with your fingers, you are able to go deeper into each category so that you can get hold of every bottle in their cellar, and along with it complete information and reviews, as well as price. Talk about cool.

"You're probably the first restaurant in the Philippines to have this," I said to Tippi, as I played around with one of the iPads.

"We're the first in the Philippines, and probably the first in Asia as well," Tippi replied.

As the evening's drinks had been decided well in advance, there was nothing else to order. But it was certainly interesting to see how far this application could go. I was sorely tempted to actually exit the application and get into Facebook and put a new status update; but I restrained myself as, just as I was about to press exit, Tippi added: "We get some customers surfing the Net or doing Facebook on our iPads. But we try to keep an eye on them."


People perpetually in motion

But going back to the dinner. It's quite interesting how like-minded people get together and naturally click, because -- as in most of our other get-togethers in the past weeks -- we noticed how all our friends were traveling around the world and around the Philippines at a furious pace. Everyone is perpetually in motion! Is it just us and people we know? Or is it a sign of our frenetic times? We'd just returned from Turkey ourselves and were flying to Tokyo in a few days, and someone had flown in from London the evening before; while another couple was leaving for Malaysia soon and someone else was heading for Hong Kong. And one of our other friends was running an airline so by default he was flying everywhere all the time. And even Tippi was headed out of Manila in a few weeks' time.

Meanwhile, another dinner reunion I attended a few days earlier for my India trip group (I traveled to South India in March with about 15 friends) was even more travel-light. Two of us had just been to Istanbul, another was flying off to her home in Paris and then New York, our host was jetting off to San Francisco, and another was leaving for Hawaii. It's almost a miracle we were able to get everyone free on the same night in the same city.

Delicious secrets

Back to Saturday night's dinner. We ended up talking about travel and a couple of other interesting things for such a long time that when we realized it was time to leave, it was midnight and we were the only ones left in the restaurant. That was when we turned the music up loud and had a bit of fun before finally heading out. It was nice to have the whole place to ourselves, with really loud music and our group laughing so much without concern for others, especially since Masseto is usually perpetually full and a lot of people know each other so it's almost always a good idea not to spill secrets in a loud voice here.

For example, one of our friends recounted how she'd been at Masseto a few weeks back for a spaghetti carbonara dinner and had been surprised and amused to hear the next table talking about her husband's business dealings. Another time I remember that a table of ladies were gossiping about a certain guy who I happened to know pretty well. And, boy, the details were certainly juicy enough for a tabloid. After that meal, I certainly ended up knowing him more than I would have wished.

So with the place empty and us on our fourth or fifth glasses of wine, jokes and secrets spilled out in random fashion and we all giggled like schoolchildren, confident that what was told in Masseto that night would remain in Masseto that night.

So, of course, we can't print anything here, unfortunately. Here's some hints, though: homes with panic rooms, an apartment with a bedroom specially made for pole dancing, a bathroom with provocative art, good-looking guys, and what happened at the Peninsula the previous night.

A nightcap at the Peninsula

Afterwards, we really had to finally leave as the place was closing, although Tippi certainly never made us feel that this was so. However, none of us went home from there. On a spur of the moment and after a couple of text messages with other friends, we headed once again for the Peninsula Manila to end the evening at -- where else, but -- Salon de Ning, the currently most-talked about after-hours venue in town. It had just opened in a very spectacular way the night before and most of us had been there for this opening (and in fact, I still had a hangover from the previous night), but we decided to head over anyway. Maybe it was remembering the night before that made us want to go again. When we got there, a band was on stage and afterwards a DJ played everything from very modern music to club beats and techno. We stayed till 3 AM here and ended up closing the place -- but not after a last round of champagne and a potent tequila shot that miraculously appeared out of nowhere just as I was thinking it was time to head home.


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