Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cooking a proper British dinner, and remembering a trip around the world

On the second day of the year, I had an early dinner in Alabang and then rushed back to my part of town to make in time for a much-needed massage. Then as I was trying to fall asleep, I started leafing through some home and cooking magazines I'd brought back from my trip to South Africa.

One of the magazines had a series of British recipes in them that made me remember the many early summers I used to spend in London, where we would take an apartment for about two or three weeks, and then I would make dinner for friends in London on at least one or two nights.

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These trips would always be in June, as I remember that Wimbledon was always on the television and that's how we would spend the afternoons.


On my last and not-so-recent trip to London -- how I miss watching a play in the West End almost every night that we were not dining out or hosting a party -- I took a beautiful three-storey apartment in St. James that was two doors down from Berry Bros (how convenient was that?) and literally a two-minute skip to St. James Palace.

It was such a lovely place that I was persuaded to host a cocktail for about 30 people in London -- mostly old friends from the financial industry -- and I actually did all the work myself in terms of preparations for food.

I turned the kitchen into a big buffet spread and then I placed a second buffet on the rooftop terrace as many people spent the night up on the rooftop having a smoke.


Before this, I often used to take an apartment at the Milestone Hotel in Kensington as well.

This is a really pretty boutique hotel full of beautiful details. The front building is a proper hotel with a pretty good restaurant that served a decent Sunday roast, while the back building was where all the apartments were for long-term residents.

I loved the Milestone Hotel for two reasons: first, it was an impeccably put together gem of a hotel, and the apartment I always took had two bedrooms and a great kitchen for cooking.

So I was always inviting friends to come along and stay.

Whole Foods was about three minutes away, and my greatest joy in life then was shopping at Whole Foods for ingredients to make a pretty tasty and healthy dinner.


Read us every Sunday
in the Business Mirror


But if there was an apartment with a wow factor, it was certainly the St. James apartment which came with its own private elevator, three bedrooms, a large sitting room and a great designer kitchen that all overlooked a very quiet courtyard in a not very quiet area of town, and a study and rooftop terrace at the top.


We took this apartment when we embarked on a four-month trip around the world just before launching Travelife Magazine -- yes, I've been living a Travelife ever since I can remember, which is not quite what I can say for other travel magazines -- that took us on a pretty luxurious trip to India, Europe and the East Coast.

to London & Paris via Amsterdam
Special fares available



To celebrate this trip and to catch up with as many friends as possible in London, Paris and New York, we hosted a series of parties in Paris, London and New York.

Of course I did all the work for the parties, but, frankly, I've been doing this for so long in so many places around the world that I have such things down to a science now:

Lunch for 12 in Tuscany
Dinner for 18 in Paris
Cocktails for 30 in London
25 people for Halloween in New York
Lunch in Hong Kong for 15
Barbecue for 16 in Tokyo
Dinner for 8 in Umbria
Lunch for 6 in Deauville

And so on...

So that I don't stress over the kitchen too much.


For this around-the-world trip, we bought an around-the-world business ticket from the One World Alliance that enabled us to make stops everywhere as long as we were always heading in one direction and not backtracking.

How fun it was to just decide to stop anywhere and everywhere, as long as we were always moving forward and clockwise. From Tokyo to Tokyo, around the world.


The apartment I took in Paris was the best apartment I had ever stayed in in France, and I would buy it in a flash if I ever won the lottery. It had five bedrooms, a very impressive foyer, a dining room for 20 and just about the most beautiful living room that overlooked a quiet inner garden in a pretty commercial area just behind the Hotel Bristol and the Elysee Palace.

Of course, lots of my friends came along from all over the world for a stay, even just for a few days; and at one point, I had all the five bedrooms full of guests, and I was serving breakfast, brunch and dinner for everyone. Lunch, I refused to do. I figured the guys could find a pretty good lunch at the Hotel Bristol nearby, while we girls trolled the stores.


On a couple of those days, as well, three fund manager guys from London, Tokyo and Palo Alto actually converged in this Paris apartment at my invitation and stayed for a few days -- to complicate matters and also make things more fun.


Read us every Sunday
in the Business Mirror

They were considering launching their own fund, and a weekend in Paris was a pretty good excuse to get together.

So they had serious business meetings in my dining room in the daytime while we girls shopped and some of the other guys jogged or went out for a long wine lunch; and before I left for the morning or the day, I was enough of a hostess to put together a brunch buffet for them in the circular foyer off the dining room --  with pastries, sandwiches, orange juice and white wine chilling in a wine cooler.

One of them then said to me: "Wow, this service is better than the Ritz." It sure was.


But anyway, reading the South African magazine with all these recipes of English food made me remember the parties I hosted. I used to make coronation chicken and pavlova for weekend lunches in London sometimes.

So I promised myself that I would actually make a proper British dinner in Manila the moment I am able: coronation chicken, smoked fish pate with salad, and a pavlova or a cheese cake filled with berries.

I used to be an old hand at Coronation Chicken, which is an old British favorite, and I am so dying to try this out again. Lucky the people who will be joining this dinner. I'm going to make sure it's good.


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