Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Saturday that felt like a Friday



Just from the way things worked out today, with the hectic schedule and all, you would've thought it was a day at the office rather than a weekend. I'd started pretty early to have breakfast with a friend from Ateneo before a meeting and then lunch.

We had breakfast at the Manila Polo Club, and as soon as we'd ordered, he only half-teasingly asked me: "Who the h-ll is this guy M? What are you doing hanging out with such rabid La Sallites? Don't you know they're bad for your health?"

I laughed. I have just as many La Salle friends as Ateneo friends so I can't (really) play favorites. But I have to admit that M is on the far side of things, especially after his comments about Jose Rizal -- which appeared in this blog on Thursday -- which had everyone either amused or infuriated.

But the passionate La Sallites think M is really cool, even without knowing who he is. Just because he says pretty funny things to prove his never-ending point that La Salle is the better school.

A REALLY LIQUID LUNCH


Then for lunch, I joined the year-end lunch of the International Wine and Food Society Manila - Mens' Chapter (IWFS) at La Girolle, a new and casual restaurant in Fort Bonifacio that has quickly been making waves among foodies. As today's lunch was IWFS for men, I technically couldn't go on my own since of course I'm not a member. But my old friend of 20 years XX is a member, and he invited me to go with him as his guest today.

So I sat next to XX and on my other side and in front of me were other members who were good friends of mine, so it was a very cheerful lunch indeed.

We all brought our own bottles of wine to share for this lunch, and this morning I'd been trying to decide between a bottle of Silver Oak, which is a New World wine, and two French wines: a relatively young Chateauneuf de Pape or an older wine from Beaune. I ended up bring the Chateauneuf de Pape and I was so glad I did so, because my friend XX brought a Silver Oak.


There were probably at least 40 to 50 bottles today and almost everything was opened and consumed. The practice at these IWFS BYOB lunches is that you bring at least one bottle to share and drink it with those in your vicinity. You can also send glasses of your wines over to other people/ friends in other tables.

So at my small end of the table alone, we consumed something like 6 bottles between us, including my Chateauneuf de Pape and XX's Silver Oak and a very nice bottle of Duckhorn which he also brought; and that wasn't even counting the ones sent over.

My friend Oscar, who was at another table, brought 3 very good bottles of wine and he sent me a glass from each one. I had 3 other events after lunch, but I just had to drink all these wines. I haven't drunk this much in a while so I was pretty lightheaded enough to want to just lie down when I got home.

I did for about half an hour, and then it was back to the Travelife swing of things: 3 more events and 2 changes of clothes. There was the Peninsula Christmas Concert at 5 pm, the black-tie Consular Ball at the Makati Shangri-la at 730 PM, and an uncle's birthday afterwards.

ALL ABOUT LUNCH

My seat mate's soup

But back to lunch. La Girolle has been on my Blackberry so much for the past two weeks or so. My friend J and I were supposed to eat here also yesterday, but he asked to change the venue as he'd been eating there so much the past few days -- and continuously updating me on the state of the food, in fact. One day great, another day okay, and another day it was hot and the food was mixed.

Meanwhile, XX probably didn't think I knew much about this very new restaurant, so he BBM-ed me all sorts of information on the place prior to our lunch today.

So even before I got to La Girolle, I already knew quite a lot about its food and the chef, who once worked in Taillevent, a famous restaurant in Paris. And it was with pretty high expectations that I went there today.

The La Girolle salad

J had already told me lots of dishes were good but some had been misses, but I was still expecting to be floored, especially as the entire restaurant was booked out for the private lunch of IWFS. If there's one group of people this chef needs to impress, it would certainly be IWFS.

GOOD ENOUGH

Spiced watermelon cubes at La Girolle

Overall lunch was good, but I wouldn't say it was outstanding. We had pass-arounds of spiced watermelon cubes on sticks and little pastry shells with foie gras; I liked the watermelon cubes a lot, but the foie gras canapés were crispy in the first round and soggy in the second round.

Then I ordered the La Girolle salad followed by a pork chop done sous vide. I love most things done sous vide and tend to choose this on any restaurant menu, so today was no exception even if I was thinking about the lamb. For dessert, I chose the chocolate dessert which came in a glass.

I liked the pastries, but my salad certainly could have used more seasoning. XX said to me: "Toss it around because the sauce is underneath." I did, but it still lacked punch for me. My other seat mate had already asked for a plate of salt and he was sharing this with everyone else who needed it.

Pork chips done sous vide

The pork chop too was tender and nicely done, but it lacked depth. La Girolle prides itself in cooking everything the old-fashioned and hard way, so I was looking for the kind of deep flavor that comes when a chef doesn't take shortcuts. Still, it was okay.

But the lamb option was better, as the meat was incredibly tender and just adequately fatty, and the sauce made the taste more complex. Thankfully, the IWFS member on my right shared his lamb with me, so I was satisfied with lunch even if it wasn't really mine.

This is the lamb I should've ordered

Now desert was my biggest beef -- excuse the pun -- because it's very hard to do this wrong. Of all the courses in a meal, dessert can recover a lot of lost ground because you can do so much with so little and it's relatively easy to whip up something good quickly. I ordered the chocolate dessert but what arrived was neither complex enough nor rich enough. Just good enough.


Now the chef is young and obviously talented, and two friends who know their food -- J and a French guy -- have sung enough praises about La Girolle for me to take notice; so these may just be some birth pains and little hiccups along the way to fame and cooking stardom. It's quite natural to experience inconsistencies at the beginning. When you're young and running a new restaurant, some days will be good and other days will be just good enough, indeed.

"I called my restaurant La Girolle after the French mushroom," Chef Ian told us. "When I was working in Paris, the task of cleaning the mushrooms was given to the most junior members, and we were called La Girolle." He also said that he would like to be among the first Michelin-starred restaurants in the Philippines when the time comes for Michelin to reach our shores.

So one of these days, I'm going back to try things again. It'll be nice to finally have an authentic, good and casual French restaurant at the Fort, so I wish Chef Ian eventual great success.

La Girolle
2F Blue Sapphire Bldg
30th Street corner 2nd Avenue
Fort Bonifacio

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