|Chef Mikel Arruiz and Juan Roca|
The “Flavors of Spain,” a yearly culinary event, was now to be held at the new Hotel Vida at the Clark Economic Zone in Pampanga. I was joined, together with Ms. Michelle "Mitch" Garcia, Fuego Hotels Marketing and Communications Manager, and her assistant Ms. Victoria “Tori” Teves-Vicente, by a media group which included fellow Business Mirror contributor Ms. Ethel S. Timbol (Dean of Philippine Lifestyle Editors) and Ms. Norma O. Chikiamco (“Filipino Homestyle Dishes” author).
The trip from Ayala Center to the hotel took all of 2 hrs. and, upon arrival, we were welcomed by Korean hotel owner Mr. Daesik Han and Gen. Manager Mr. Juan Roca. A lunch featuring Spanish cuisine and wine, hosted by the Economic and Commercial Office (headed by Mr. Javier Alvarez Casanova) of the Embassy of Spain and prepared by Club Punta Fuego Resident Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz (again the star of this running fiesta) and his culinary team, awaited us at the SALT Coffee Shop.
|Clara Ole paella|
The set menu included fardelito de berenjena relleno dequeso cremosogranizado de remolacha y aceite de pistachio (eggplant stuffed with cream cheese, beet root crush and pistachio oil), consome de txipriones, flotante de manchego, esfereas de pimiento verde y crujiente oscuro (squids consome, idiazabal flotins & black crackers), marmi-tako (tuna & potatoes stew), magret de pato con peras al romero (duck breast with pears & rosemary) and, for dessert, esferas de chocolate con limon (dark chocolate balls with lemon). Also served was Clara Ole paella and country-style pasta.
|Claude, Norma and Maryann|
Come dinnertime, we were joined at the coffee shop by fellow travel writer, artist, culinary expert and Angeles City resident Claude Tayag and his wife Maryann Tayag. After a sumptuous buffet, it was chitchat time, with yours truly and Ethel regaling (or scaring) the others with our ghost stories. The equally scared Norma also joined in with her signature Makati Medical Center elevator ghost.
Our stories must have had their desired effect as Mitch and Norma switched from separate rooms to adjoining rooms. They wouldn’t even let me go until I accompanied them in the elevator (Norma is to blame here). Even so, they were so scared to go to their respective toilets. I suggested catheters.
Come breakfast (Filipino this time) at the coffee shop, it was the same group all over again minus Ethel who woke up with a fever (possibly “possessed” or sinapian by a ghost?). She later joined us and the talk turned culinary with Claude at the helm. Claude is the author of “Food Tour” and co-author of “Kulinarya.”
Our breakfast talk soon extended into lunch and we decided to go Asian and indulge in Korean fare which included the signature bulgogi. As with all things in life, the good times never last forever and it was time to pack up and go back to our respective homes, families and jobs in Manila. However, to soften the blow of leaving, Claude did not let us go without an early Christmas pasalubong of his signature Claude 9 inasal barbecue marinade, Oriental sauce and pure crab fat. Now that’s la vida!
Hotel Vida Clark: 5414 M.A. Highway, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga 2023. Tel: (045) 499-1000. Fax: (045) 499-0979.
Manila Office: UG-9 Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 V.A. Rufino corner Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: (632) 840-1430. Fax: (632) 840-3589.