My Great Taste in 2013

Good food takes time and love. It’s an art. Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.
– Important Food Lessons From Julia Child

My utmost desire to unleash my inner Julia Child brought Great Taste to life in 2011. Two years after, the Great Taste series has never been this good. In fact, 2013 has even been a more delightful year.

Thanks to my travel sprees, I was able to explore a lot more of new, interesting cuisines and drinks. I savored morsels of European dishes – Swiss, Lyonnaise, Burgundian, Belgian, Danish, Italian, Portuguese – to my utmost content, while I took my first sips of delectable wines – Bourgogne, Valpolicella, Amarone, Porto.

I’m pleased to say that my cooking skills are just getting better. Having my own cooking space now has helped me to stay focused and feel more confident and comfortable exploring different recipes while identifying my personal style and taste. As how Julia Child reminds aspiring cooks like me:

The only stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.

Though I’d say that I still have lots to learn when it comes to cooking, what’s important now is that I already enjoy doing it. For me, cooking has become a zen thing to do.

Assiette Genevoise. Dining in restaurants in Switzerland can be exorbitantly expensive, and yet despite the price, sometimes you’d still encounter mediocre food or poor service. Promising as it seems, we came across this membership card called Assiette Genevoise. It showcases over a hundred restaurants in Geneva and nearby, where you can dine in for two persons but pay for only one.

Since my husband and I love eating out, we found this discount card quite practical. Eventually, it became part of our dining habits.  Whenever we start itching to dine out, we’d usually ask each other, “Do you wanna go for Assiette Genevoise?

Not all recommended restaurants in Assiette Genevoise are created equal, however. Either due to their dishes, ambiance or service, a few restaurants we visited weren’t entirely satisfying. Despite the 50% discount too, still expect to pay a hefty bill (fancy-pricey restaurants, of course). Yet some are indeed recommendable, even worth revisiting. In fact, from my top 10 list of Swiss restaurants I posted weeks ago, four of which are from Assiette Genevoise. Overall, it’s worth it.

Lyonnaise and Bourgogne. Lyon is a city infused with architectural wonders, rich historical past, French culture, and gastronomical delights. Traditional Lyonnaise cuisines can be enjoyed in these restaurants called bouchons. We didn’t look for the “authentique bouchon lyonnais” as we just casually strolled around, finding ourselves where we’d end up when our tummies begin to churn. We dined in some local bouchons and ate a few of traditional Lyonnaise dishes such as salade Lyonnaise (green salad with bacon cubes, croutons, and poached egg), andouillette (tripes sausage) and gratin dauphinois (oven-cooked potatoes with cream). Generally, Lyonnaise dishes are fatty as they are originally workers’ food, but the portions are big and they are very tasty.

Not so far from Lyon is Bourgogne or Burgundy, a region known for the medieval Burgundian kingdoms and Burgundy wines. After our champagne tasting in Reims, we stayed overnight in one of Burgundy’s towns, Dijon, which is much known nowadays as a generic trademark for quality mustards. At Dijon I was able to enjoy for the first time the boeuf bourguignon, a well-known, traditional French stew with beef braised in red wine; and Epoisses de Bourgogne, a locally made cheese from the village of Cote-d’Or near Dijon; and lots of other French cheeses, sourdough breads and Burgundy wines to boot!

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Wine Escapades. It started with our Easter holiday in Lyon where we sipped lots of Bourgogne wines, and the champagne tasting weekend in Reims. I’m not really a big fan of French wines, except now, I’m loving champagne! While during our honeymoon in Italy on the other, we drank bottles of Italian wines and digestifs of all kinds, from the usuals like Chianti, limoncello, prosecco; to my old-time favorites such as Montepulciano and Montalcino; and interesting discoveries – Amaretto, Valpolicella classico and Amarone. Later on in Porto, we went for glasses of port wines and some Portuguese reds.

Italian Eats. We chose Italy as our honeymoon destination because of its food and wines. My cravings for anything seafood and Italian wines were indescribable. While my husband had been wanting to try the Fiorentina steak, we also discovered another favorite of ours – the black truffles pasta. A typical Italian meal is served in this order: aperitivo, antipasto, primo platti, secondo platti, contorno, formaggi e fruta, dolce, caffè, and digestif –all served in generous amounts. We were eating like true Italians, as if it were our last.

Gastronomical Porto. Portuguese cuisine is also as interesting as Italy’s, simply because Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry, hence the high amount of fish and seafood being eaten here. Bacalhau, a dried and salted cod that can be cooked in different ways, is the most popular of all. One of which I had was bacalhau com todos, as translated literally, “cod with everyone,” which consisted of boiled bacalhau and vegetables and seasoned with olive oil, garlic and wine vinegar. In Porto, we also feasted on other gastronomical specialties such as tripas à modo do Porto, tripe cooked with dried beans, vegetables, pig’s trotters and offals served with rice; francesinha, bread topped with steak, sausage and cheese and a beer-flavored sauce; and pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese egg tart, which I had my first taste at Lord Stow’s Bakery, a store franchise in the Philippines that originated from Macau.

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Daily Food & Pepperplate. A daily Belgian cooking show, Dagelijkse Kost, or Daily Food in English, has caught my attention recently. I don’t fully understand what Jeroen Meus (the chef in the show) is saying, but I can follow and understand what is going on by just watching how he does magic in his kitchen (with Carrefour goodies at Hotel Hongria). Not only I’m learning new recipes, especially of Belgian kinds, but I’m also picking up a bit of Flemish. So kudos!

Pepperplate is a recipe, menu and cooking planner app that has been tremendously helpful in seamlessly managing my recipes, menu plans and shopping lists. I fully recommend this practical app for busy cooks like me.

I’m Cooking! In 2013, I was able to share a few good recipes and my cooking experience at Great Taste. There’s the herbes de provence rotisserie chicken, which brought back the taste of litsong manok to my Pinoy palate. There’s also fish provencal and fried calamari. Come wintertime, I was able to make freshly made soups myself – pumpkin soup, fish chowder, tomato soup and mung beans soup. Then even before we left for the holidays too, I was able to make a Belgian beef stew and some malakoffs at home.

So…what’s up for Great Taste in 2014?  Cook more and blog about it. I’ll also try to get into baking. I’m still keen to learn more about wines, and possibly, I can also start blogging about it. Becoming a sommelier is a humongous dream to fulfill, so I’ll remain an oenophile for now.

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