Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Top Of The Citi by Chef Jessie

Last week, I was invited to a private degustation with a few friends by Chef Jessie from Top Of The Citi.

Just kidding, it was one of my favourite Tita's 50th birthday celebration... I'm not that cool. Yet. I WISH.

The theme was Hollywood! Perfect perfect perfect excuse to glam up and wear a dress I'd bought over the summer in Europe with no particular reason. It's a nude (my favourite!) strapless knee/calf length dress with a sweetheart neck and centre ruffling. I think it might be one of my favourite buys this year because it's got such interesting little details. Like the pull-up at the front! I love it I love it I love it, it makes me squeal!
I'm using a rose clutch from Aranaz and nude peep-toes with a silver ribbon at the back from Aldo. This photo was actually taken after the dinner at Resorts World - picked up G.

I got really excited to do my make up cause I knew I was going to shift away from various smokey / blended eyes and paler lips. I love pale or nude lips with a strong eye. But this called for some red!
This was actually an accidental photo, I misjudged the timer on Photo Booth (guilty as charged, but note that I never take gratuitous photos like these... This was a first! Hehehe, I just needed to document my make-up!). Blinked!

Standard make-up base: concealer (Bobbi Brown), foundation (MAC), bronzer (Bobbi Brown) and blush (Bobbi Brown). For the first time, I also defined my brows a little bit more. I just wanted them a tad darker, so used a mix of a matte brown and black over them.
I wore an eyeshadow that was slightly lighter than my skin tone as a base, then layered that with another eyeshadow a few shades deeper, but closer to the lash line so the lighter shade was still visible. I wanted something more dynamic than the plain winged eye, but nothing over the top. I topped the black winged liner with some fake eyelashes from e.l.f. as well. First time to try fake lashes myself, and I liked it!
Using MAC's Russian Red and a lip brush, I lined my lips and deepened my cupid's bow for fun (hahaha), then filled it in.

My hair is in two buns because I was trying a new no-heat curling method! I screwed that up though... My hair was still too damp when I'd released the curls, so it didn't hold that much. Blegh. I did a bunch of pin curls at the front and just wore the rest of my hair down or in a bun (it got warm later on!).

Moving on!
 The menu.
 The girls (some of them, at least).
The salad: mesclun & micro greens with fresh fruits in season in raspberry vinaigrette dressing. This was yummy and refreshing. It was, though, a really big serving. Not many people seemed to finish it.
The soup: cream of asparagus soup with garlic croutons. I didn't like this... The flavours were very in your face and flat. To me, it was just liquefied asparagus and garlic masquerading as croutons.
I did love the palette cleanser in between though! See that short spoon?
It was for the passion fruit sorbet. Very light and sweet!
The entree: grilled beef tenderloin steak in wild mushroom sauce, baked lapu-lapu fillet with cheese crust in chive sauce served with linguine a la crème and sautéed vegetables. I wasn't terribly impressed with this! None of the elements really caught my attention, which was unfortunate because I was quite excited from the menu. They sounded lovely, but I found them uninteresting. The crust on my fillet kinda just... Came off once you sliced it. The beef was incredibly tough, and after I sliced it once I gave up and never looked back. The vegetables were also very... Plain.

For such a glamourous event with everybody looking amazing, why would you serve plain veggies??
The desserts: a trio of chocolate kiss, mango crepe samurai and Queen Hera. This was lovely! I didn't try the chocolate though, thought it'd be too heavy. But the crepe and the sans-rival were delish!

By the way, in case you didn't know, the name sans rival literally means without rival or unrivalled in French. I realised this recently... Haha!
There were some great performances - applause all around! Tita Hera's husband wrote her a song and sang it to her as a surprise!

So many people only dream of such great and lasting love! What a lucky family.



Top Of The Citi by Chef Jessie
34th Level, Citibank Tower
8741 Paseo de Roxas, Salcedo Village
Makati, Metro Manila
+63 2 750 5810 to 12
Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 10:00pm

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Chicken Parmesan a la Thigh Warriors

I often go to the Plana FORMA studios with my friend Mika, and because it's so early in the morning (we usually go at 7:30am) it isn't strange for her to come over for breakfast or brunch. A lot of the time we just eat what has been prepared or I make us some open faced sandwiches, but there are some glorious days that we decide to whip out the pans.

Yes, we are called Thigh Warriors at Plana FORMA. Secretly, it thrills me.

Moving on. Mika has been craving Chicken Parmesan for the longest time and we've been procrastinating getting ourselves together to cook for a while now! Finally, we found the time this week after a workout. Here we go!

Prep the breading for the chicken. One bowl with flour, salt and pepper. One bowl with breadcrumbs (fresh or packaged, anything that floats yer boat) and Italian herb seasoning, or whatever herbs you'd like to add. One bowl with a beaten egg.
Grate the cheese (or you could just grate it straight into the sauce pot later, and over the chicken). We used a mix of mozzarella and quickmelt. Cause I love quickmelt.
Pound your chicken fillets / breasts in a ziploc bag. I didn't have a mallet, so used a wide knife instead. Lovely way to get all your anger out. I didn't have much anger that day though (nor do I ever) so it took quite a while to get the chicken as flat as I wanted them to be. Hah!

For clarification, what I mean by using a wide knife is not whacking the chicken fillets with the knife itself... Hahaha! But rather hold the knife steady, resting on top of the chicken with one hand, then with the 'heel' of your other hand kinda bang it down. Thump? Thud? You feeling me here?
Pat the chicken fillets dry with a paper towel so that they aren't dripping wet, but are still moist enough to pick up a coating of flour. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Use one hand for the dry mixes and one hand for the wet parts.

What I mean by that is pick up the chicken (wet) with your left hand and put it in the flour.

Then use your right hand to coat the chicken in flour (dry), as well as to slide it into the beaten egg.

Go back to using your left hand to flip the chicken in the egg (wet) and completely coat it, then transfer it into the bowl of breadcrumbs.

And finally, use your right hand again to evenly coat the chicken in breadcrumbs (dry). Scoop some over the top and flatten, as well as flipping the chicken over so both sides touch all the breadcrumbs. Be liberal!
By doing this, you'll avoid getting some kind of glutinous sticky mess on all your fingers. Trust me, being lazy in this step is a no-no. You'll get gunky crusty hands that are hard to wash! Yaaaacksssss.
Have a plate ready to put all your breaded chicken fillets.
Oooooooh, look at that generous pat of butter in the pan ready to be melted!
Fry both sides of the chicken until golden in butter and extra virgin olive oil.
Set the chicken aside so you can get your sauce started.
Using the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, sauté the onions and garlic in more butter and olive oil. Using the same pan means a greater depth of flavour will be present in the sauce, but just be sure to remove (if any) the burnt morsels left from cooking the chicken. Cook through for a few minutes until soft and then...
Add a splash of red wine! Let this cook and reduce to about half, it will develop a much deeper brown colour.
Add in the tomatoes. Here, we used two cans of diced tomatoes and just manually mashed most of it up with a fork. This lets you control how chunky you want your sauce, because sometimes the consistencies between different brands are quite different. All up to you!

Stir to combine and allow it to simmer for a few minutes over medium heat.
Sugar in next. I learned from the Pioneer Woman that this contrasts the natural acidity of the tomatoes. I love it! I just eyeballed the amount needed for this, tasted, then readjusted again for flavour - seasoning well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add in some grated cheese, but be sure to have some to top the chicken with later on!
Chopped basil. Originally, Ree uses parsley, but we grow our own fresh Basil here at home and I really do love the smell and flavour of this. Mix everything together well.
Because Ree's recipe is actually a pasta topping, I served our Chicken Parmesan quite differently. One layer of the tomato sauce, topped with the chicken fillets, topped with grated cheese (don't do yourself a favour by going easy on this stuff - pile. it. on.), topped with more tomato sauce!
The fresh-off-the-stove tomato sauce will melt the cheese while it's being served. If this were in a cooking show on the lifestyle network, that'd be your cue to start clapping manically at the genius of it all.
I wish we got a better picture, but look at the strings of cheese as you pick up a piece of chicken! Yum!

This is golden. This is what we were born for. To indulge ourselves in any and all methods of melting cheese. I know you're silently agreeing with me as you read this.
This was delicious. So delicious. A little bit sweet, but with so many different flavours working together. I loved it. My only concern at this point was how watery the tomato sauce got... Didn't anticipate that, so for the next time I make it, I'll drain most of the liquid from the cans and just keep adding it into the sauce as I go.

Aside from generally liking to deviate from recipes in the kitchen, we also changed things up because we gathered ingredients with only a general idea of what was in chicken parmesan, then found one to cook with after we got home.

I'd like to comment on how well it kept in the fridge to be reheated over the next couple of days but I enjoyed it so much that I ended up eating the last two pieces of chicken for both breakfast and lunch the next day... But I'd suggest that if you were making a lot, or think you might have leftovers, only serve (sauce over cheese over chicken over sauce) the amount you're going to need at the time. This is so that you can store the sauce and chicken separately, cause otherwise it'll go really soggy. Not that I had any complaints though. It was still really good. Really. I promise.

Here's the recipe! This is quite simple, and I think now that I've made it once and gone through the motions, it won't be hard to whip up really quickly for family or friends.

Chicken Parmigiana*
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (isn't she dreamy?)

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil (we generally always use extra virgin olive oil at home)
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced (We used five. We're cheeky like that.)
3/4 cup wine, either white or red will do (eyeballed this as well)
3 cans (14.5 ounce) crushed tomatoes (we used two)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cube chopped fresh parsley (we used basil instead)
1 cup freshly grated cheese
1 pound thin linguine (we omitted this since we'd just come from working out and wanted to keep things on the lighter side)

Mix flour, salt, and pepper together on a large plate.

Dredge flattened chicken breasts in flour mixture. Set aside.

At this time, you can start a pot of water for your pasta. Cook linguine until al dente.

Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and oil/butter mixture is hot, fry chicken breasts until nice and golden brown on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Remove chicken breasts from skillet and keep warm.

Without cleaning skillet, add onions and garlic and gently stir for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavourful bits off the bottom. Allow wine to cook down until reduced by half, about two minutes.

Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook for 30 minutes. Toward the end of cooking time, add chopped parsley and give sauce a final stir.

Carefully lay chicken breasts on top of the sauce and completely cover them in grated parmesan. Place lid on the skillet and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until cheese is melted and chicken is thoroughly heated. Add more cheese to taste.

Place cooked noodles on a place and cover with sauce. Place chicken breast on top and sprinkle with more parsley. Serve immediately.**

*when I post these recipes, I'll always show the original. My adaptations will be noted either throughout the step by step photos, in italics by the recipes or both.
**there seems to be something wrong with the spacing of my recipe... I've tried over and over again to get them formatted with a single line in between each 'step' and... Who knows. I'm frustrated. What is this. Help?

Thursday, 25 August 2011


Onboard the ship, I'd always start with chunks of fresh melon for breakfast. So much more succulent and flavourful than the melons we have here!
Ultimate. Kebabs / gyros bring back so many memories for me of my summer in France. You can't get them like this in the Philippines. At least, I haven't found any that are up to par. If anyone can recommend somewhere for me to relive my happiest of times, please do share!
What a lovely man with such a lovely shop.
We had to go back for more after touring the city.
With our tour guide / driver of the day, Alex. Guapo ba?
Tzatziki, taramasalata and delicious, slightly salted pita bread.
I love Greek food. I am in love with Greek food.

Dr. Cuanang's beautiful Pinto Art Gallery

We spent Sunday afternoon all the way up in Antipolo to check out the Pinto Art Gallery. Dr. Cuanang had been to our house last week, and invited us to pay a visit on Sunday as there was some sort of catered event there. My dad wasn't clear on details, but I was very excited. A lot of the artists being displayed were present, and it was so lovely to meet them. Even though I've been painting for about two years now, I've never really had any real exposure to the Philippine arts community until this moment! What a thrill!

There were multiple buildings scattered around the property - you had to go up down and all around these beautiful greens to see all the art! It's something everyone should really experience. The surroundings heighten your appreciation for the art displayed. Everything is too beautiful and I felt a wash of serenity over me while I was going around.
Dr. Cuanang took my dad and I around, then attended to his other guests. He's such a kind man, you get this very warm and welcoming vibe from him as soon as you meet him.
Almost an ARENA of paintings! Such a clever set up inside, in my opinion. I couldn't help but just take a spot on the 'bleachers' and soak in all the pieces.
I love how they kept some of the natural landscape integrated in the structure!
Another building within the property.
Now this painting I found very very interesting. At first glance, it looks like it's covered in bubble wrap, but in reality, the artist has painted circles and highlights all over the canvas! Painstaking genius.
Wall Piece by Jose Santos III, oil on canvas, 197 x 327 cm, 2000
Multi-leveled grounds that housed gallery spaces, a little cafe and a souvenir store. There is plenty of seating all around the galleries, and it really encourages you to sit and appreciate how beautiful every little and big detail is.
School of Fish by Joven Mansit, oil on canvas, 137.2 x 193 cm, 2010
Mawalang galang po by Joy Mallari, oil on canvas, 198.12 x 198.12 cm,  2000
I liked this statement a lot. Though many might not consider it art or of any significance, and rather just careless and threatening graffiti, I find it to be a statement of the Bohemian life, or an artist's life, or the life of somebody that truly knows how to exploit everything the world has to give. To me it says "We are free."and "We know how to live." - maybe you agree, maybe not. Maybe I'm right in interpreting the artist's intentions, maybe not. That is what is so great about art. 

I want to be a part of this movement so badly - I want to escape monotony and the idea of perfection and exact structure. I want to become an artist and have passion in every single day of my life.
We had merienda in their little cafe. It felt like we were at a relative's house and were just having food with the family. It's not formally catered but there are some lovely ladies that man an open kitchen and make home-style food like suman and manga (see above photo), fresh juices, etc. Delish! Complements the style of the gallery so well, I find!
Second life portrait by Winner Jumalon, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 121.9 cm, 2006 
I was excited to finally find Jumalon's piece in the gallery because my work has been compared to his a number of times! My dad has friends from the art community over every so often, and a few had mistaken my pieces for his! Our portrait styles are apparently quite similar, and I am so honoured to be mentioned akin to somebody like him.

Obviously I'm still a young and quite inexperienced painter, but ahhckkkk this gets me so excited for what's to come in the future!!!!!!! (<--- I'm not a fan of overused exclamation points, so can you see how much this means to me?)
And now the perfect way to have ended my visit to the Pinto Art Gallery...
I had spotted BenCab from a distance and was, at first, not sure if it was him. I studied him during my arts course at the British School Manila, and he has influenced a few of my pieces. Meeting and being able to have a conversastion with a national artist... Now that is... Wow. Just wow. I feel like a giddy little girl meeting Aaron Carter in the 90s - look at his hand on my shoulder!

Find your way to this beautiful space this way:
Map borrowed from here.

Pinto Art Gallery
1 Sierra Madre
Grand Heights
Antipolo City
+63 2 697 1015