Balai Isabel

Old times and good French wine

Today was a complete foodie day and I must’ve easily gained 20 kilos in the last 12 hours. Lunch was with my new Italian friends, Vincenzo Spinosi (Italy’s King of Pasta) and the chef of the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice; and we had the equivalent of 5 or 6 pasta dishes. I’ll write more on that later.

But tonight, I attended the gala dinner of the Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila Chapter at the Ayala Museum, which featured a five-course dinner by Margarita Fores with Bordeaux wines (of course). The special guests for tonight were Corinne Conroy of Chateau Brane Cantenac, a 2nd growth Margaux, and Ronan Laborde of Chateau Clinet, Pomerol.

The Commanderie de Bordeaux has really enjoyable events so I try to attend each and every one, as long as I am in Manila. And once a year they have a gala dinner where everyone gets dressed in formal attire and new members are inducted into the society, complete with wine-red robes and all. Tonight was the gala dinner for 2011.

As it is the start of the Christmas season, there are so many formal events in Manila and I have about four gowns lined up for pressing for this week alone. But for some reason — perhaps because the Commanderie dinners are usually informal events — it completely escaped me that tonight was a formal dinner.

Then as I was dressing up for the evening and getting ready to slip into a cocktail dress, I remembered that I hadn’t even bothered to check the venue, simply assuming that it would be somewhere in Makati anyway. Fortunately I decided to check my emails for the venue tonight with just a bit of advanced timing; to my horror, I realized that it was a formal event requiring a long gown.
So I rummaged through my closet for another gown to wear and quickly made myself as presentable as possible. In 15 minutes, I was out of the house in the requisite long gown and on my way to the Ayala Museum for the Commanderie dinner, making it exactly 5 minutes before the start of the meal.
The dinners of the Commanderie de Bordeaux are one of the few events that I’ll happily go by myself to, as it’s by membership and they’re mostly just like reunions of old and good friends over good food and wine. So tonight, too, I was quite nonchalant about arriving by myself in fancy dress.
True enough, I saw lots of old and good friends immediately upon entering and it was a great opportunity to catch up. Then it was time for dinner and we all had to find our places in one of the three long tables Gaita Fores had set up so beautifully with a purple theme right in the middle of the museum. There was a pre-assigned seating chart and apparently Edouard Mialhe, one of the Commanderie’s stalwarts and perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the Philippines on Bordeaux wines, had arranged the seats as always.
I’d been assigned a place in Table 1 and for some reason, many of of my good friends were in Table 3. When we realized this, we thought of switching my seat with someone else so I could join Table 3 instead, but this was just not possible as Edouard had reasons for placing everyone somewhere.
So off I went to Table 1, not knowing who was in it but pretty confident that I would have congenial companions anyway. Everyone in the Commanderie de Bordeaux is lots of fun. Edouard’s wife, Sevrine, was hosting Table 1 and I was diagonally across her and in between two gentlemen. And — what do you know. To my left was XX, an old friend of over 20 years who I haven’t had the chance to sit next to for a proper conversation in a very long time.

He was already larger than life when I’d met him 20 years ago, and he’s become even more of an urban legend now since his businesses have flourished immensely. Over the past two years we’d bumped into each other at some ambassador’s parties or at dinners of a gourmet society, but we’d never really talked much again since we’d last had dinner in Tokyo some time back.
We’ve never really been in the same place at the same time because I’m always traveling and he’s — well — he’s got something like a hundred houses and businesses all over the world so he’s forever busy and forever on the move.

“Are you still into all those adventures?” I asked him. When I’d met him he was going all over the world at an amazing rate, and doing crazy Type A personality things like jumping from airplanes and skiing down steep slopes with a death wish. He’d invited me to climb a mountain in South America with him once but I’d politely said no because I just didn’t do mountains. But I did join his family for a ride on a boat in Tokyo once, and that had been lots of fun.
He smiled at me and replied: “Yes, but at a slightly slower rate now.” So he’s still doing fantastic things with regards to extreme sports, but also doing luxury things like taking one of his helicopters for lunch or golf in Tagaytay because he doesn’t like traffic.
And I heard this from someone at the same table who’s been able to ride with him a couple of times: riding your own private chopper to escape traffic and be somewhere in 15 minutes instead of three hours is a hard habit one can ever so easily get used to. Apparently it’s terribly addicting.
It was very nice catching up — especially as it was like no time had passed in between. We reminisced about the first times we’d met and toasted to a lot of things tonight, including to old times’ sake.
Meanwhile, to my right was a very well-known executive who regaled me for most of the evening with his stories of a joint ownership of a villa in Tuscany and a couple of fancy sports cars in Manila. He and three friends jointly own four very fancy cars, and they rotate and get to take one home every week. That sounded really smart compared to owning four fancy cars yourself as you can only really drive one a time anyway.

This way he had a different car every week; and in fact, one of those fancy cars was parked right outside Ayala Museum as we dined, as he’d driven himself over in it. One of the informal rules of this “club” is that you don’t let the driver or the valet touch the car. And after your week is over, you send it back to the “manager” who gives it a thorough cleanup to make it feel brand-new. Then it’s given to the part-owner next in line.
The joint ownership scheme has worked so well for him so far that he’s now thinking of creating the same scheme with friends for other things such as beach houses in the Philippines.

“Of course we can buy these things,” he told me, after confessing his practicality as a businessman. “But, frankly speaking, how often do you really use such a thing? With joint ownership, you get the best of both worlds. You spend less money and you only use it for the time you need or want it.”
Such an interesting concept, and soon I was thinking of other ways to use such a scheme including perhaps joint ownership of expensive bags or jewelry. How many times do people use such things after all? The evening passed so entertainingly, and by the end of it, I had two new BBM friends as well — and XX had already BBM-ed me photos taken that same night.
Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
New members of the Commanderie de Bordeaux
inducted tonight
Jo Elinore Castillo-Theodoropulos
Ricardo Cuerva
Othmar Ober
David Ong
Don Santos
Jerome Tan
Ivan Yao
Fernando Zobel de Ayala
Juan Carlos de Terry
Margarita Fores’ dinner menu tonight
Handmade papardelle with bacon and asiago cream
Duck confit with potato gratin
US angus bone-in tenderloin with a Cabernet sauvignon reduction
Caramelized brie de meaux
Tarte au chocolate with dulce de leche ice cream
The champagne & wines
Champagne Ayala Brut Majeur NV
Chateau Brane Cantenac 2006
Chateau Clinet 2007
Chateau Brane Cantenac 2004
Chateau Clinet 2005
Chateau Brane Cantenac 2000
Chateau Clinet 2003
Travelife Magazine’s
Oct-Nov 2011 Issue



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