Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kimberly Hotel,Tagaytay

This was a long over due post (supposed to be up right after the holy week), but for another important reason my time for blogging is so hard to pin down these days. Finally, I had a whole day to spend with my family last holy week. We stayed at Hotel Kimberly, Tagaytay in Good Friday. We opted for this hotel for quite a number of reasons. First, it's very close to home yet, we can still have a relaxing "vacation ambiance" that Tagaytay never fails to offer. The hotel is very new (more or less two months old) and thus, you would expect the facilities to be clean which is an essential consideration if you have kids to bring with. It's not too small nor too big, just the right size to enjoy some privacy. Hotel room rates are mid range. With the size of the room and its amenities, I would say it's value for money.

Main Lobby
Reception Area

Room for Double Occupancy

Room for Single or Twin Occupancy

Room for Quadruple or Family

Function Rooms

Adult and Kiddie Pool

The relaxing pool area

Giant Slides for kids and kids at heart (my kids had the time of their lives here)

On the whole, Hotel Kimberly - Tagaytay lived up to its promise of affordable quality hotel living. The service is very welcoming and accomodating. Although, facilities is quite limited, there's no need to expect for more. This is a place for a simple weekend getaway. It sits in a not so picture perfect landscape or scenery unlike the other places in the Tagaytay Ridge but it equally offers a tranquil hideaway.
Hotel Kimberly
Brgy. Kaybagal, North Amadeo Road, Tagaytay City
Telephone Number: (046) 4838888
e-mail: reservations@hotelkimberly.com

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Basic Food Styling / Food Plating (Part 2 of 2)

On to the practical side of the Basic Food Plating Workshop; we started the second day with the preparation and cooking of the food that we were assigned to plate. Yes, real food it was! Contrary to the usual food styling activity (specifically in photo shoots) where artificial stuffs are used to come up with inviting food shots, we styled nothing but real food. All participants were divided into teams of two members and each team was assigned a particular dish to cook and plate. We were given an hour to conceptualize, strategize and finish our work. It's an amateur Iron Chef show, that's how I would depict the fastest one hour of our lives as "cook and artist" at the same time. And heaven it was, seeing our creations oozing with culinary stimuli in all angles of the plate.

The banner photo in this article is of course, my team's work. We were assigned to cook and plate Pancit Canton Gambas. The second photo on top is the original food style that we made. After some critics and suggestions it was modified as shown in the first photo above. The plate was re-arranged in such a way that the shrimps didn't look too monotonous and well placed. Aside from the chopped spring onions, a slightly bigger cut of it was used as additional garnish on top of the shrimps to highlight the seafood other than the noodles. Also, the green color of the spring onions cut the all orange - brownish shade of the dish. The geometric contrast between the plate and the noodles worked harmoniously. We also dust the sides of the plate with a little paprika to extend the color onto the plate. But we made sure we left some space on it just so it can still be handled comfortably by the one who will consume it.
The second dish is Beef Sukiyaki. The best focal point of this food presentation is the arrangement of all the ingredients used. There's a good contrast of color and each ingredient managed to come out on its own. The visible red color from the beef strips gives off that impression of being cooked just right (medium rare).

This is Spamkatsu. This dish is a classic example of turning canned goods into gourmet food. Instead of usually presenting the fried spam slices on top of the dry noodles, this team made a difference by serving it on one side of the plate. The spam slices are nicely arranged one on top of the other garnished with a twisted lemon and parsley. It's also served Filipino style by adding some sauce and buttered bread on the side. Truly, this dish gave a life to an ordinary canned product. This is one great breakfast or snack idea for kids that moms should never pass out in preparing.

Fried Thai Spring Rolls. This is the simplest but equally appetizing food presentation for me. The idea of chili sauce yin-yang styled is very apt for this oriental, asian inspired dish.

Creamy Cheese and Bacon Soup. One good thing about this food presentation is the use of a colored tray. The dish shine through although the tray is a bit cluttered. The spoon could have been eliminated yet placed directly into the bowl. The bacon curls added some twist into the color of the soup. However, its crispness could have been preserved and enjoyed more if it's added on the side together with the buttered bread.

Desserts, desserts and more desserts! We were actually more excited in the dessert segment. We feel that we can play more in this food category. Besides, who do not heart sweets? Definetely, not this lot!

This is my team's second masterpiece, Graham Buko Pie. Okay, we've overdone this a little bit. We were actually thorn between serving it Pinoy style or with some added twist. That's why adding the buko juice on the side is a little over kill. We are accidentally making our customer over stuffed with "buko" in this case. We should have focused on the idea of "buko pie a la mode". The yellow ice cream is already enough for the white buko pie. However, since we were quite limited with the shape of the plate, we thought that the food presentation should come in three.

Chocolate Graham Tiramisu, isn't this too chocolatey to look at? The cocoa powder dust and the zigzag lines of chocolate syrup just blend well. You would want to have a slice right away.

Apple Graham Coffee Cake, I prefer the second presentation of this dessert. It's actually my favorite shot. It captures everything that you would expect on a slice of the cake. The apple cinnamon on top of the cake garnished with mint leaves liven up the plate a bit.

Honey Graham Banana Pockets, tastewise this is one of the best tasting desserts. It resembles that of our typical banana roll with a twist. The interplay of colors on the plate harmonized the overall presentation. The use of fruits as sidings for the banana pockets is also very fitting.

The winner of the dessert category, Graham Banana Chocolate Pudding. This food design is intended for the kids market. Don't you think they will just love this? I can imagine kids lining up for this creation. The colors, the style and the ingredients used, I think everything says it all. On the whole, I could not over emphasize how inspiring and creative this food workshop was! We can just head on to our kitchen and make it deliciously steaming with all gustatory elements, always.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Basic Food Styling / Food Plating (Part 1 of 2)

I've recently attended a 2-day Food Styling Seminar conducted by Chef Anna Limjap Park of Culinary Productions Inc. The culinary module involves basic food plating philosophy and techniques which are further segmented into 4 parts: a) basic food preparation, b) plating, c) styling and d) practical application. The workshop taught us how to transform a basic commodity into a desirable necessity via the added value of design and visual appeal. I would say it's a perfect training to let the creative juices of Professional Food Servants like us flow abundantly. We were essentially a team of Food Technologists and Chemists; in other words technically equipped people transforming foods into commercial food products to make them readily available and shelf stable for the consuming public. If the Chefs own the kitchen, we have our food laboratory as home base. Do I say this training is relevant and useful for my work? Definitely yes, what more to inspire and stimulate a passionate foodie in me.
Food Styling or Food Plating is defined by Chef Anna as the way "how food is arranged on a plate and garnished. It is here where a plate of food is treated like a painting and the rim of the plate is frame". The cook or chef is encouraged to create the "artist" in him. There are three important elements in Food Plating. One, is the proper selection and cooking of food. Next, is the plate selection and last, the equipment.

In Food, the color, shape, size and texture will play vital roles. It's necessary to think of different accompanying colors and possible cuts in one thousand and one ways. Just bear in mind that meats and poultrys have their own standard cuts, it would be better to play more on hard vegetables. What is key, is to achieve variety and balance. On cooking the food, basic rules must come like a mantra.

Meats - tougher parts (muscled / exercised) must be cooked in moist heat. Less exercised parts are normally cooked in dry heat (e.g. pan-frying).

Poultry - white meat cooks faster than dark meat. Fry skin-down, high heat at first then low on the other side until the juice that comes out is clean.

Seafood - it's cooked as soon as it turns pink. Boiling is a no-no, just simmer.

Vegetables - must be crisp and tender. Cook one at a time. Pre-cooking or blanching is used as a normal technique.

Pasta and other Starches - cook aldente meaning "to the tooth". Wash the cooked starch immediately and oil it a little.

Sauce - use just to enhance not key.

Garnish - anything to enhance the look of the food but should always be edible and tied up with the dish. The size must be just right (not too small not too big) enough to be mixed and eaten with the food.

On Plate Selection, white is the basic and the best available. "It provides a clean and unobstructed canvass for food. The important rule is to not overcrowd it. Again, don't make it too busy!" It should be multidimensional also, add some height etc. The most common technique is to clock it. Usually, the starch is placed at ten o'clock, vegetables at two o'clock and proteins at six o'clock. It will add more drama if a focal point of the meal is created. Moreover, a concept of geometric contrasts will provide a good arrangement and presentation. Slight mess is allowed but must be controlled. Generally, the rule of thumb is to make it simple and realistic. This is where the artist in the cook/chef will play a substantial role.

On Kitchen Tools, the basic must haves are butchers knife (for meats), Chef's Knife (for all kinds of chopping), vegetable knife (for peeling), serrated knife (for bread and some fruits), filleting knife (for fish) and meat fork.

These photos show some examples of garnishes. The first photo above has sugared fruit (strawberry and grapes), scored citrus slices (orange), citrus twists (lemon) and melon or mango balls. These garnishes can be used to dress up cakes or puddings, fish, salads, drinks and desserts. The second photo has strawberry and mango fans. These are commonly used in cakes, pies and milk shakes. The beautiful tomato rose below is perfect for any type of dish either savoury or sweets.

The idea of Food Plating left a very stimulating experience in me. Now, I find it an integral part of the food itself. Who would be enticed to dig into a plate that presents a food in its utter mess look? Of course, we all want that impression of delicate cooking onto our food. Inevitably, the manner it is presented reflects much of how it's cooked and prepared. Thus, at the very least the food presentation must exude all delightful culinary senses to last down to the very end of the bite. The challenge therefore is to create innovatively like a scientist do. Cook, the finest chef way and work like the greatest painter of all times. There will be no reason then for the plate to be left untouched.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pan de Manila (Breakfast Items)

Unless there’s a need for a heavy breakfast, a perfect combination of hot coffee and bread is just enough to perk me up in the morning. For that reason, a side trip to Pan de Manila on my way to work is a normal thing for me. This bread store is home to a delightful selection of baked goodies, dips, spreads and coffee mixes. In here, the infamous Filipino bread (pandesal) is being baked the conventional way in a time-honored ambiance. Also, I noticed that new offerings come every now and then. Apart from my favorite gourmet pandesals such as cheese and pesto cheese, I found these two new items in their shelves. "Soft buttery dome-shaped bun, wrapped in a milk flavor crust", it is how its packaging described this product. When it landed through my sensory orifice, I found it having a nice blend of creamy and toasted notes. The sweetness is just right but short in milky character. As I munch and cut through the middle portion, I felt the texture too dry with a salty butter taste. Fortunately, the bottom layer retains its softness which complemented the creamy crust.

Cafe con Leche 3-in-1 Spanish Style Coffee, bears that selling proposition of Pan de Manila - "Damhin muli ang init at sarap ng nakaraan... kape at pandesal ng Pan de Manila". For the pandesal, yes, this claim is true to its taste. However, for the coffee, a better blend should be concocted to tastefully match a traditionally enjoyable bread. It's more of a full-bodied but diluted coffee mix. I can hardly perceive the coffee taste that I did not feel being transported back to the rich flavor of the good old days.

Creamy Vegeroni Pasta Primavera

I'm getting tired of serving breakfast items such as scrambled eggs, hotdogs and other preserved meats to my kids. Even a macaroni soup, classic spaghetti, or pancit canton (chinese chow mein) sounds too satiating already. So, off, I went to my food magazine rack to seek for some rescue from this culinary dilemma. Fortunately, I found this Creamy Pasta Primavera recipe featured in Jan - Feb 2008 issue of Yummy Magazine. I just tweak the recipe to my own liking. Pasta Primavera is a hearty combination of pasta and vegetables that is too inviting to savour. Like I said in my previous post here, I'm facing the challenge of raising gourmet kids. Luckily, this pasta recipe glued the kids to their seats at the dining table. However, I never realized that I will be too.

Creamy Vegeroni Pasta Primavera


½ of 375g-vegeroni pasta, cooked according to package directions
300 g boneless chicken breast, cut into chunks
4 tbsps canola oil
2 tbsps butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, julienne
1 bulb white onion, cut into chunks
1 pc red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 pc green bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 small zucchini, sliced into chunks
1 tetra pack all purpose cream
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup pasta water


1. Cook Vegeroni Pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Save about ½ cup of pasta water.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Pan-fry in canola oil until slightly brown. Set aside.
3. Melt butter on the same pan and sauté garlic until light brown in color.
4. Add vegetables and cook until tender. Put first the ones longer to cook.
5. While vegetables are cooking, pour all-purpose cream and reserved pasta water in a saucepan. Add parmesan cheese and simmer on low fire until thick. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Add cooked chicken and pasta to the vegetables. Mix well.
7. Pour cream sauce over pasta and vegetable mix and stir well to coat evenly. Serve hot.

The use of vegeroni pasta made the dish colorful and looked more inviting for the kids. It also perfectly matched the "pasta primavera" concept which normally consists of pasta and vegetables.