It was another glittering affair for the Bailliage de Manille of the Confrèrie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the worldwide association of gastronomes, as it turned 40 years old — a milestone marked with a grand formal dinner and induction of new members at the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel Philippine Plaza on Saturday, March 17.
As the sun set on Manila Bay, more than 200 guests, including distinguished international officers of other national bailliagesor bailiwicks, gathered for cocktails at the pleasant garden patio leading to the elegantly bedecked tent. An added treat was the pyrotechnic display viewed distantly as it unfolded in the Mall of Asia area across the waters. But even that could not compete with more intimate entertainment: the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group performing dances of Muslim Mindanao, in regal finery.
The welcome spirit (in more ways than one) was Champagne Lhuillier Brut from France, yet associated with the Lhuillier family of Cebu, as represented by Bailliage National des Philippines’ Bailli Delegue Michel J. Lhuillier and his wife Amparito L. Lhuillier, Bailli de Cebu.
The bubbly went well with the personally served hors d’oeuvres that were as pretty as they were delicately yummy — spiced lamb skewers, tempura shrimps Roulade with Wasabi Cream, and Air Dried Beef with Grape Walnut Salsa.
It’s been a year since this writer joined the inductees to the Manila domain of Chaîne des Rotisseurs, sponsored by no less than the Bailli de Manille or head Federico “Freddie” S. Borromeo, with whom I’ve had professional and very cordial relations after working together on a book project for Rotary International when he was its President.
Last year the annual induction and ceremonial ball was held at a venue familiar to Palanca Awards functionaries such as this writer: the Rigodon Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula Hotel. I still recall how the party proceeded from Salon de Ning on an elegant march to the ballroom that was dressed up oh so decadently in bal masque motif. Two kilometric tables extended towards the stage, their sides seating 200 guests, who were then served regally with a fabulous array of gourmet courses paired with excellent wines.
This year had pretty much the same carefully accoutered set-up, but with the additional facet of having distinguished international guests in attendance for the Grand Chapitre International held from March 14 to 18.
The week-long celebration began with the 19th Grand Diner Amical & Intronisation hosted by the Bailliage de Cebu at Shangri-La Hotel Mactan, followed the next day by a guided tour of Intramuros for the foreign guests, with historian-raconteur Carlos Celdran serving up his informal lectures in his inimitably savvy and humorous way. On Friday, March 16, commandeur, officier and maitre hotelier Ado Escudero hosted the international delegation to a Filipiniana lunch at Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon.
But the grandest highlight was Saturday’s 40th Anniversary Grand Diner Amical & Intronisation hosted by the Bailliage de Manille, featuring a musical presentation on Philippine history by the Philippine Opera Company and dances by the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group. The following day featured a polo match and farewell party at Manila Polo Club.
Well, among our cherished friends that evening were Bailli Freddie and his spouse, officier Marie Josephine Borromeo; conseiller culinaire National des Philippines and grand officier Maitre Rotisseur Eschanson (OMGD) Gene Gonzalez; vice charge de missions and professionel du Vin Julius “Jay” Labrador; our fellow Chevalier Harry Tambuatco, TV program host of GNN Channel; and business columnist Conrad Banal with his better half.
But my dinner partner Ditas Antenor and I missed the presence of Rudolf and Elizabeth Lietz, pair de la Chaîne and vice-chargee de missions, respectively. I also wondered about the absence of my lush-life buddy Atty. Michael Toledo, charge de presse national. Oh, as well as my venerable friend Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco, conseil d’honneur, Bailliage National des Philippines.
It couldn’t just have been the reputedly horrible traffic that evening that held these friends back from joining the feasting table. And what a feast it was, with the special menu reading thus:
Amuse Bouche: Island’s Best Catch — marinated king prawns carpaccio, with Beluga caviar; tinapa paté and glazed green mango Mille Feuille; and lapu-lapu kilawin on fresh cucumber; foie gras trilogy — foie gras truffles on ice wine jelly, foie gras terrine, and seared foie gras with balsamico orange sauce (my dinner date and I had to assure one another that we can keep our respective addresses unknown to PETA — not the theater organization I was part of in youth’s halcyon years); Tagaytay’s pumpkin soup with champagne, Creme Fraiche and citron oil, escargot phyllo stick and baked oysters; mango sorbet with lambanog on silvered almonds tuile; slow-roasted US beef tenderloin topped with spicy shallots and shaved truffle, with spargel and cherry tomato confit and morel jus; warm camembert, sesame twist, grapes in white wine; chocolate nougat mousse box covered in dark cocoa, with creme anglaise strawberry and tapioca pearl (the Chaîne seal and butterfly are of white chocolate; I’m still keeping a pair in my ref.); and finally, homemade chocolate pralines infused with local elixirs.
Whew. Followed an astronomer’s burp, if not a full-fledged gastronomer’s, yet.
As for the wines, the champagne served at cocktails and with the first course was followed by Domaine Huet le Mont Demi-Sec 2003, thence the earthy Corte Riva Merlot 2007 — which I remember to have first savored at an informal wine-pairing Chaîne dinner last year, where Jay Labrador introduced the lady who is part of the Fil-Am trio producing the excellent Corte Riva wines from Pride Mountain in California. Oh, and the lambanog liqueur was heavenly indeed, as pointed out to us by Chevalier inductee and single malt whisky buddy Sanjeeb Gopaldas.
Apart from Sanjeeb, among the new members inducted that evening were three newly-minted Dames de la Chaîne: Ines Cabarrus, Camille Christine Cunanan, and our fellow Philippine STAR columnist Stephanie Zubiri. Now most certainly, pulchritude becomes an additional feature of the Bailliage de Manille’s annual formal bashes.