Monday, September 5, 2011

Wines and Spirits Club Dinner at Café Ysabel



Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section, August 28, 2011

Rustic Flavors from a Wood Oven

It has been more than a decade since my last time at Café Ysabel. The restaurant was THE date place during my high school days. Many memories were made here, many “will you be my girlfriend” asked, and many “yes” answered.

Things have changed so much in the last ten-something years.

I used to be more interested in boys, now I am more interested in food.

I used to come to Café Ysabel with dates, now I come alone and free.

I used to drink iced tea with meals, now I am more refined and sophisticated, I drink wine.


Just kidding. The grandma in me now prefers warm water, or the occasional hot chocolate (yes, with meals!)

But tonight is different. Tonight I am attending the once a year dinner and wine event organized by the Wines and Spirits Club Philippines.

Tonight I put on “refined and sophisticated.” Flirt female

Tee hee hee.



The dinner theme is Rustic Flavors from a Wood Oven. And Chef Gene’s JY Firebricks oven is nothing short of rustic. From the burgundy brown bricks to the charcoal burning below, this giant mama continually gives birth to hot and delicious breads, pizzas, vegetables and ribs that create happy energies throughout the room.


Chef Gene Gonzales and The Wood Oven


The drinking begins waaaaayyy before the eating.


        Arnie’s Cosentino Winery Sangiovese                                        Bodjie’s Voltrona 
                 Il Chiaretto California 2006                                  Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2010       


              Jay’s Thierry & Guy Fat Bastard                                       Jay’s Dog Point Vineyard 
                                    Rose 2009                                                    Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2009



The Pan de Putok is the cutest little baby. The beauty of its crust, the perfect balance of chewiness, softness, fluffiness, and moistness of the pillowy whiteness inside, brings out in me my motherly instincts. I want to protect it and keep it safe from all the hungry men eyeing it lustily. I hide the baby in my mouth and slowly push it down to the sheltered refuge that is my stomach. Mmmm…



      Beth’s Léon Beyer Gewurztraminer 2008             Trimbach Riesling Alsace France 2009


         Wil’s Glaetzer Barossa Valley Bishop            Tinto Pagos de Penafiel Ribera del Duero 2005
                              Shiraz 2005                                                            (Sorry, who brought this?)             



It’s a super thin-crust pizza party!

I don’t know how he does it but Chef Gene comes up with the thinnest and crispiest pizza crust ever. As if the Goat Cheese Pizza with Red Wine Simmered Onions is not yet fantastic enough, he tops it with heaps of balsamic vinaigrette-dressed arugula, my favorite salad greens. The tanginess, nuttiness, bitterness and sweetness of the pizza and rocket come together like a wild party in my mouth.


Goat Cheese Pizza with Red Wine Simmered Onions topped with… wait for it…


…Arugula, my favorite!!! I’m in love with the nutty, peppery greens.


And then a whiff of the Turkish Pide brings my lids down and sends my eyeballs rolling
to the back corners of my head. I sink my teeth on the crisp dough bed topped generously with lamb sausage, chives, parsley, olives, feta and mozzarella and my throat lets out a moan of pleasure. The gaminess mixes beautifully with the creaminess, enveloping my palate with a richness that is overwhelming yet addicting. I never ever want to stop.


The Double Pepperoni Pizza that follows is salty and spicy in all the good ways.


The minestrone of Charred Vegetables is healthy, hearty and tasty.



            Marty’s Baron Ladron de Guevara                   Sanju & Cutie’s  Abbotts Cumulus Reserve
                                 Rioja 2009                                                                      Minervois 2007


  Johnny’s Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2008             Pete’s Castello Banfi Cum Laude 2007


Our protein comes in the form of Fire Baked Beef Short Ribs. I stand by the prep counter and watch as the sous chef carves the huge slab of meat and distributes it evenly to the waiting plates. I bat my eyelashes at him, sweet-talking him into giving me the tastiest, most tender part. His assistant slathers it unsparingly with sweet and spicy bourbon glaze, adds a piece of baked corn and some Napa-style cauliflower. Next time I’ll remember to bat my lashes at him, too, hoping he’ll put less sauce on my ribs to allow the beefiness to shine.


Carving and plating station


Mine. Mwahahaha!


Fire Baked Beef Short Ribs with Spicy Bourbon Glaze, Baked Corn, Napa Style Cauliflower


Now this cauliflower is the bomb! Gino asks for a plate of it.


Arnie suggests pairing the ribs with his wine. Gino suggests Jim’s Sea Monster Imperial Stout.

Arnie’s Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel 2003             Jim with another one of his bottles


Sea Monster Imperial Stout and Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale


And where there is wine, there is cheese.


Frico Dutch Master Cheese, Frico Chevette Cheese, Malagos Goat Cheese, Grapes and Nuts


And where there is cheese, there is Cyrene and her S95!


I shamelessly treat myself to thick slices of Frico Dutch Master Cheese, Chevette Cheese, and Malagos Goat Cheese before surrendering to the indulgence that is in front of me…


Sweet roasted pineapple floating happily in burned butter ice cream


As for the wines, there are too many to remember. I drink some solo, pair some with food, sip some daintily, chugalug some greedily. There are those that make my face scrunch up, and those that make my eyes twinkle.


                Nederburg Private Bin                                                Noel’s Chateau Montelena Estate 
            Cabernet Sauvignon 2005                                                    Cabernet Sauvignon 2004


                   Chef Gene’s Salice Salentino                      Chef Gene’s Granmonte Heritage Syrah 2009
            Trentacinquesimo Parallelo Kreis                                a Thai wine made by his niece


   Grant Burge Barossa Lily Farm Frontignac                      Nelson’s Grand Old Parr De Luxe       
                 2009 that Wil brought for me                                                   Scotch Whisky


My two favorites that night are:


Eric Khan’s Santa Rita Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
That’s the winemaker himself and his wife


And Jay’s Dr. Loosen Riesling Beerenauslese 2006


The Winos and Dinos:





Chef Gene and Me


Café Ysabel: 455 P. Guevarra Street, San Juan, Metro Manila. Tel: +632-725-5089

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