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Of lambs and turkeys and Jose Mari Chan

/ 05:15 AM November 19, 2017

The Christmas season has begun at Camp John Hay, with The Manor Hotel all lit up for Christmas. —PHOTO BY RICA ESPIRITU.

How do you know Christmas season has begun?

1. You see girls and boys selling lanterns on the street and you remember the Child in the manger as He sleeps … In other words, Jose Mari Chan starts flooding the airwaves again.

2. Food writers start collating and creating a “Best Christmas Food Gifts” list.

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3. Friends start messaging for Christmas reunions and exchange gifts worth [input barkada budget here].

4. Every hotel has a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The Manor gets lit

Speaking of Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, I just witnessed one. As Billy King launched his Thanksgiving/Christmas menu of elevated Filipino dishes (his lamb sinigang is a must try), the Garden of The Manor on Camp John Hay was converted into a Winter Wonderland, complete with life-size penguins and giant Christmas trees. A Disneyland-worthy light show was held last Tuesday where Baguio Rep. Mark Go, Department of Tourism Regional Director Venus Tan together with Camp John Hay Leisure’s founder Bob Sobrepeña, executive vice president Boysie Yñiguez and general manager Ramon Cabrera “switched on the power” to light up not only one Christmas tree but all the trees in the garden and everywhere. It was pretty awesome.
Make sure to try Billy King’s lamb sinigang for dinner and take home his strawberry jams. The jams are so good you might mistake him for a Good Shepherd nun.

Billy’s kingdom

Speaking of Billy King, if you are wondering whatever happened to this remarkable chef, once upon a time with Prince Albert at the Intercon and co-founder of (if you remember) Le Souffle, he is now executive chef not only of The Manor but of Camp John Hay Leisure. This means he handles two hotels on Camp John Hay, The Manor and The Forest Lodge, as well as the Clubhouse (exclusive to golf club members) plus catering for all the weddings in the properties. He is so incredibly busy he hasn’t had time to trim his hair (no balding for this one), which is now so thick and wavy that he could give Selena Gomez or Bianca Gonzales a run for their money.

One would think that he would be more relaxed in Baguio, right? Wrong. He is busier than ever. Last weekend, he cooked for the gala of the Ferrari 70th anniversary. Fifteen Ferrari car owners drove all the way to Baguio to join in the global celebration of Ferrari at 70, with the indefatigable Willie Soong, chair of Autostrada Motore, Inc., the exclusive distributor of Ferrari in the Philippines, leading the group in his own matte black 458 Spider.

Ferrari gala

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The Ferrari gala dinner was a stellar event organized by master events man Sunny Ku, who had Louis XIII cognac go with Billy King’s exemplary tiramisu (yes, the King can work a mean Italian menu).

Let me tell you why the Remy Martin Louis XIII is special, aside from the fact that it costs $3,000 a bottle (yes, three THOUSAND US dollars). First, it is created from over 1,200 different eaux-de-vie (a clear, colorless fruit brandy that is produced by means of fermentation and double distillation) to “showcase of all that’s great about this illustrious cognac house.”

Second, the decanter is Baccarat Crystal, so it is no ordinary bottle but a true keepsake for your collection.

Finally, the drink also has historical value: Winston Churchill celebrated his election win with it in 1951 and Queen Elizabeth II was served this during her visit to Versailles Palace in 1957.

So, of course, nothing less than the best for Ferrari owners, right?

The Ferrari event also had no less than the great crooner Arthur Manuntag, the Tony Bennett of the Philippines, serenading guests. Legendary in the halls of Philippine jazz, this guy is simply irreplaceable. On November 28, there will be a tribute/benefit concert for Arthur at Johnny Good Bar, the old Hard Rock Cafe. Show starts at 6:00 p.m.

Follow Facebook.com/margauxsalcedo for updates on Arthur and this show.

A feast for the senses—PHOTO BY DINO DATU

Sandy Daza’s new book

Speaking of the best (again), Inquirer’s very own Sandy Daza has launched his cookbook, Cooking with Sandy Daza (the title must be inspired by the television show of his mom, Cooking It Up with Nora). Published by Anvil, copies are now available in National Bookstore branches.

Massimo Bottura’s new book

Chef Massimo Bottura has also launched a new book titled “Bread is Gold.” This is a fundraising effort to build a thousand refectories (for communal meals to help feed communities).

Bottura is owner of Modena, Italy’s Osteria Francescana, which was awarded the title of World’s Best Restaurant by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in 2016.

Bottura is generously tapping on his celebrity for his advocacy of ending food waste and has gotten chef friends to contribute a recipe for the book’s compilation of “165 extraordinary easy meals with ordinary ingredients.” In an Instagram message, Bottura said: “If you really care about feed(ing) the planet, just buy the book and help me and all my friend(s)—the chefs all over the world—to build 1,000 refectories.” You can try to get a copy via thekitchenbookstore.com, an online bookstore that helps food geeks like me look for hard-to-find books.

Taza’s new menu

In other news, Taza Fresh Table over at Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay had its own Christmas tree lighting ceremony yesterday, November 18, and chef Jayme Natividad of Taza will be launching his new menu on November 22. He is introducing a lamb bolognese and his new take on lamb chops.

Chef Dino Datu’s turkey

Finally, since Thanksgiving is this Thursday, consider ordering turkey from chef Dino Datu, the London-trained editor-in-chief of Cook Magazine. His cooking has always been impressive, full of life and flavor. His turkey is not dry at all and he makes the turkey flavorful by infusing the brine with herbs instead of just seasoning the turkey outside. The stuffing, which is a hearty mix of potatoes, bacon, sausage and cottage pie, is not exactly stuffed but served on the side. The top is buttered then baked to get a nice crust on top. For the sweet contrast, Chef Dino serves the turkey with sweet French beans tossed in browned butter and cinnamon candied carrots.

For orders of this turkey, here are the rates: P6,000 for 5-6 kilos, good for 15 pax; P7,000 for 7-8 kg, good for 23 pax; and P8,000.00 for 9-10 kg, good for 30 pax. For orders (three days in advance notice), call 0905 430 1924.

Happy thanksgiving

With all that, let me be the first to greet you a Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t forget to say a prayer of gratitude on November 23, which is Thanksgiving 2017. And let me be the second—after Jose Mari Chan—to greet you a Merry Christmas as the trees light up to officially begin the Season of Giving (and eating)!

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TAGS: Best Christmas Food Gifts, Christmas season, Jose Mari Chan
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