Saturday, September 17, 2011

Slices of heaven at the Mandarin



Last night, my last event for the evening was the Wine & Spirits 2011 festival at the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental. It was basically a wine and food degustation featuring over 100 wines from all over the world and a really good spread of appetizers and dinner. I walked in past 9 PM to a full house of people enjoying a fantastic buffet and all the wines they could possibly taste.

The Mandarin certainly put out a very impressive spread. In the middle of the ballroom was a 25-meter long buffet display that began with a pasta and risotto station, continued to a ham and cheese station with really incredible hams and cheeses, a dessert buffet in the middle, and then stations with hot and cold dishes at the other end.

On both sides of the ballroom were most of the country's main wine importers, and each importer had a booth displaying their best wines and spirits. You received a glass when you entered the ballroom, and this was yours to keep; and this glass allowed you to visit every importer and taste whatever they had to offer. I should've brought mine home as well as a keepsake, but I lost it quite early in the evening.

This is the fourth year that the Mandarin is doing this, and I think it's the best one so far. Interestingly, the ratio of foreigners to locals was about 4 to 1. There were so many more expatriates at this event, although I also spotted some friends, a popular fashion designer and a couple of fashionistas.

A BIT OF MALAYSIA AT
THE MAKATI SHANGRI-LA

I'd started my evening at the Malaysian National Day at the Makati Shangri-la, which had excellent Malaysian food. I particularly enjoyed the Penang laksa which was made to order. The roti canai station was also incredibly popular.

"This is pretty fantastic food for a hotel that doesn't actually have a Malaysian restaurant," I said to Holger Glaser, Makati Shangri-la's Director for F&B, when I saw him at the party. It turns out that the Shang actually has two Malaysian chefs at the hotel, and this explained why everything was so good and so authentic. Later on, Holger brought them around so I could meet them. The challenge for the evening, they both told me, was in the spices and the ingredients needed to make the dishes truly Malaysian.

"How did you manage that?" I asked them. They both smiled at me and one of them said: "Magic."

THERE GOES THE DIET

So from Magical Malaysia, I went on to the Mandarin event and ended my day by breaking my self-imposed no-carb diet and actually having three plates of risotto. It was that good. The risotto was made to order and the chef -- who recognized me from the Travelife Italy Night commercials on the Asian Food Channel -- made me an excellent risotto with salmon, asparagus and truffle oil.

"The secret is not to stir the risotto but to shake the pan while cooking it," he told me. "This way, more of the sauce is absorbed into the rice. And it's really important to put some good wine in."

Fortunately there was a lot of good wine all around to make my risotto just wonderful. Then I took my plate over to the ham station, where another chef was slicing Parma ham and jamon serrano. I took a couple of slices of the Parma and placed it on top of my risotto. It was pure heaven. And that's why I went back to refill my plate two more times.


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