Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Flavors of Spain in Batangas


Cooking demonstration with Chef Mikel (left)


A delectable array of bite-size tapas
The Spaniards are at it again, trying to conquer the Philippines, not with galleons, swords and arquebuses, but through the Filipinos’ heart, via the stomach.  This invasion, truly of a different sort, is led by Club Punta Fuego Resident Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz and his culinary team.   This traditional “welcome invasion” is called the “Flavors of Spain.”   

Fuego Hotels, together with the Trade Commission of Spain, hosts this much-awaited, 30-day traveling caravan of rich and varied Spanish cuisine, now on its fifth year, to be held at Punta Fuego Yacht Club in Nasugbu, Batangas. 

Mr. Alfredo Roca (Chief Operating Officer) and Ms. Mitch Garcia (Marketing Communications Manager), both of Fuego Hotels and Properties Management Corp., invited a media team to cover this event.
Morcilla de Arroz con Tomate
At the Marina Bar, a table filled with a dazzling buffet of irresistible wines and ingenuously-prepared, delectable and tempting Spanish cuisine awaited us.  
Its numerous piece de resistance included top of the line, dry-cured Real Iberico ham, chorizos of every variant, manchego cheese, black blood sausage, charcoal tempura shrimps and small but sumptuous, bite-size appetizers called tapas (called pintxos in Basque).  These tapas included  Morcilla de Arroz con Tomate Pintxo de Ensaladilla RusaPuding de PescadoPintxo de Jamon con AtunPincho de Pimiento Asado con AnchoasTartaletas de MariscoChorizo a la Sidra,  Calamares Andaluza and Txistorra.
Pintxo de Ensaladilla Rusa
Puding de Pescado
Puding de Verduras

Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz
Tapas, when combined into a full meal, made for a perfect repast.  Tapas (called pintxos in Basque and pulutan or pica-pica in Filipino), derived from the Spanish verb tapar, meaning “to cover,” was said to have originated during the reign of King Alfonso XII (1857-1885).  
The king stopped by a famous venta (inn) in the windy Andalusian city of Cadiz, where he ordered a glass of sherry. To protect the wine from the beach sand, the waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king. 
After drinking his wine and eating the ham, he ordered another sherry with the same tapa (“lid” or “cover”).  

Others say that, during long siestas or between sips, one would put a slice of bread over his wine glass to prevent fruit flies or dust from falling into one’s sweet sherry drink.  Later, it became a habit to top this “cover” with a snack.

Gallo Durum Wheat Spaghetti with Fresh
Watermelon Balls and Saffron
Chef Mikel, the star of this running fiesta, arrived in Manila in 2004 by way of the lovely town of Andoain, Gipuzkoa in the Basque Region of Spain, known for its gastronomic delights and for having produced a good number of the world’s best chefs. 

Young, hardworking, good-looking, always smiling but soft-spoken, Chef Mikel also oozes with talent and is passionate when it comes to his trade.  He has worked in many prestigious fine-dining restaurants in Ibiza,  Tenerife and Barcelona in Spain as well as  the Martin Berasategui Restaurant in Lasarte, awarded the highly coveted 3 Michelin Stars, the highest honor given to a restaurant.  Aside from Spanish cuisine, his expertise also includes Italian and French cuisine.

After this late lunch, we crossed over, by speedboat, from the yacht club to Terrazas de Punta Fuego where we witnessed a cooking demonstration, again by Chef Mikel, at CafĂ© Sol. Using Spanish Gallo durum wheat pasta and the freshest ingredients (basil leaves, watermelons, mushrooms, native pechay, walnuts, etc.), he combined and transformed them into full, delectable but healthy pasta dishes, using traditional cooking techniques, saffron (the world’s most expensive spice), garlic, blue cheese and a lot of olive oil.   
Gallo Vegetable Spaghetti with Blue
Cheese,Walnuts and Native Pechay
After this cooking demo, yours truly, Ms. Mira B. Gloria of Highlife and 13 others sat as judges in the Wine Challenge, sampling shots of three red and two white wines from ADP Industries, ATR-Torres and Barcino Gourmet, judging on the 2S (sight and sound) and 3Ts (taste, touch and totality), the winner being designated as the resort’s official red and white house wine for 2008. 
Come sunset, it was party time at Terrazas Beach Plaza, co-presented by Landco Pacific Corp., Prestige Cars (BMW), the Trade Commission of Spain and Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) and hosted by James Deakin.  Again featuring a sumptuous tapas spread, plus lechonlenguapaella, bottomless sangria and a host of desserts, it also featured a fashion show by Waicoco Swimwear, the electrifying music of the Brass Munkeys and a raffle draw of prizes including Nautica watches, gift certificates from Washington Emporium, American Express, Digiprint, Taal Vista Hotel and Pearl Farm Beach Resort and gift packs from SMART Infinity.
Fashion Show of Waicoco Swimwear

The Brass Munkeys

Fuego Hotels and Properties: 15/F, 139 Corporate Center, Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 750-1999.  Fax. (632) 750-1893. Website: www.fuegohotels.com.

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