Monday, December 28, 2015

Din Tai Fung Now Open in Manila ♥ ♥ ♥

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle on December 3, 2015

An Explosion of Taste

I have been eating Din Tai Fung xiao long bao since I was in the womb. You see, my mom stuffed herself with baskets and baskets of the soupy dumplings when she was pregnant with me. I had to fight the darn things for space in her stomach, which makes me and xiao long bao sort of twins. If you look closely enough, you will notice some resemblance—roundness, cuteness, etc.

I grew up in Taipei enjoying countless meals at Din Tai Fung (DTF). It has become a habit to wait in line, browse through the menu looking at new items to try, and then ordering the exact same dishes each and every time. I find myself going to the place even when I was living in Hong Kong, during trips to Shanghai, and almost everytime I am back in Taipei.

And most recently, in its still-under-construction new home in SM Megamall. Yes, after Taiwan, United States, Canada, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and Thailand, the xiao long bao institution is finally opening in Manila!

 Din Tai Fung one week before it opened its doors to the public

Dinner table set up complete with candles. So romantic!

The Moment Group worked very hard for this to happen. Jon Syjuco shared with me how the whole process took two years from the submission of franchise application to the day they finally received the approval. I felt their joy and excitement every step of the way. Eliza Antonino, together with 22 of her staff, trained in Taipei for six months, working the floor, learning Mandarin, immersing in the company’s philosophy and culture, and perfecting the art of xiao long bao-making. If you have peeked through any of the DTF open kitchens around the world, you would understand how incredible the operation is. Everything is performed with precision—kneading, rolling, stuffing, and shaping. Measurements are exact, the weight of the wrapper, the amount of filling, and down to the number of folds. (Trivia: A perfect xiao long bao has 18 folds.) Abba Napa proudly announced that every member of the DTF family is a “Happy OC,” which means obsessive-compulsive, but at the same time, happy to be such perfectionists.

The Moment Group's Abba Napa, Jon Syjuco, and Eliza Antonino

Of course, there is no party without a mobile Bank Bar

Personalized apron for all the guests

 We had to be in proper attire for the kitchen tour, hairnets and face masks included

No one was exempted!

 Our menu consisted of old and new favorites

Taiwanese Kao Fu - my ultimate love!

Spicy pickled cucumber 

Sauteed string beans

The pork xiao long bao came with an instruction manual educating guests on the proper way of eating the little work of art. Dip the dumpling in the soy and vinegar sauce, poke a small hole and suck out the broth, and then enjoy the rest with ginger slivers.

Xiao long bao eating guide

Pour soy sauce and vinegar into the dish with ginger

Eli demonstrating to us the proper way to pick up the dumpling with your chopsticks

But I like to do it my own way, which is to dip the baby in sauce, top with ginger, and let the
 whole thing explode in my mouth, covering it with hot, savory, porky juices. On my own, 
I can finish a basket of ten.

Next up, crab roe xiao long bao!

The crab roe xiao long bao uses our local crab

Eli showed me a group photo of the crustaceans with their glorious fats exposed

The photo still haunts me to this day 

There is also the healthier chicken xiao long bao

And next year, the restaurant will be introducing chicken xiao long bao with…wait for it… 
foie gras! I promise you it will be as rich and decadent as can be.

And then, the most awaited xiao long bao of the night

 I opened it up so I could show you that each dumpling contained one gram of black truffle. 
The earthiness of the truffle combined with the flavorful pork broth was simply ambrosial. 
A culinary orgasm!

But there are more than just dumplings to indulge in at DTF. I highly recommend my staples: Taiwanese kaofu (two orders for myself all the time), seaweed and tofu salad, steamed chicken soup like how your own mama would prepare it at home, addicting fried chicken wings in shrimp paste, and a hearty shrimp fried rice that is already a meal on its own.

 Chicken wings in shrimp paste

 Stir-fried Chinese broccoli and organic kale

I am also very ecstatic to announce that DTF Philippines will be serving dishes that are exclusive to Manila like:

Succulent prawns covered in salted egg yolk

 Crunchy sweet and sour pork

A most tender black pepper beef 

And insanely delicious chocolate lava xiao long bao. 
This new dessert alone makes this branch my favorite in the world.

We were treated to a choco lava and whisky pairing with the award-winning Taiwanese Kavalan.
Sorry, the whisky is not on the menu. :P

Taiwanese staff who arrived early to help with training and preparation. 
Forty more staff flew in from Taipei for the opening day.

I’ve never had a disappointing experience in all the years I have been eating at DTF. Every meal is consistent, reliable, soothing to the soul, and pleasing to the taste buds. And no matter where I am in the world, the steaming bundles of dumpling joy always remind me of home.

Congratulations to The Moment Group and Din Tai Fung Team!

Din Tai Fung: G/F Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City
Tel: +632 997-1935

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Costa Coffee Masterclass with Gennaro Pellicia

Everybody needs a perfect cup of flat white sometimes, and I am thrilled to know that I do not
have to travel all the way to Eastwood because Costa Coffee now has a branch in BGC.

It was as warm as the wall promised it would be

The place was set up for the masterclass to be conducted by Costa Coffee's Master Taster

The man himself, Gennaro Pellicia, who flew in all the way from London for this special event.
Gennaro started working as a barista at Costa Coffee when he was still studying, and has been 
with the company for 25 years now. His eyes twinkled every time he spoke about coffee. 
I saw a man truly in love with his craft.

 And THAT hanging from his mouth is THE MOST EXPENSIVE  TONGUE IN THE WORLD. 
Yes, Gennaro's tongue was insured for a whopping £10 million, or approximately Php 722 million, 
with Lloyd's of London!!! 

Just to let you know, his tongue beat the following celebrity organs:

Dolly Parton's bosom $600,000
Rihanna's legs $1,000,000
Keith Richard's hands $1,000,000
Madonna's breasts $2,000,000
Heidi Klum's legs $2,000,000
Tina Turner's legs $3,200,000
Kylie Minogue's buttocks $5,000,000
Bruce Springsteen's vocal chords $6,000,000
Daniel Craig's body $9,500,000

I really don't care about all the others, but if this guy's tongue is worth more than James Bond's whole body, I MUST PAY ATTENTION.

Coffee cupping essentials

 Inside the box was a spoon, paper cup for spitting (you're not expected to swallow everything
 like I did. Ooops!), an apron, and notebook and pencil to write down our thoughts.

And of course, food. This was Leslie's ham and cheese sandwich.

We were given 3 single-origin coffees to play with: Columbian, Kenyan, and Indonesian

It is best that coffee beans are ground immediately prior to cupping, and the grinds should remain 
covered with a lid until ready to use.

 First step was to deeply sniff the coffee grinds. You must bury your face into the cup and inhale 
as if your life depended on it. The Columbian smelled of chocolate and dark fruits, the Kenyan
of citrus, and the Indonesian of smoke and burnt wood. It was hard to choose a favorite, 
I loved the unique scent of each origin.

 Next, we poured hot water into the cups, making sure to wet all the grounds and let them
steep undisturbed for 3-5 minutes before evaluation.

Then the most sensual thing happened. Gennaro began caressing the coffee. This process is called "breaking the crust." He caressed the crust ever so gently until it broke and the granules settled to the bottom of the cup. You have to watch this video to understand what I'm talking about.

By putting our faces as close to the cup as possible, and sniffing the foam that ran down the back of the spoon, we were able to appreciate the wet aroma of each coffee.

Tip: It is important to drink water to clear and reset your senses!

Next step was to skim off the remaining granules floating on top. This was done using two 
cupping spoons and a lot of practice! Gennaro cleared his cups in one single sweep, while 
I had to do mine again and again. Lol.

And finally, it was time to taste the coffee. This process required a very fast sipping, almost
sucking action. The goal was to spray the coffee across your palate, coating your tongue and
inhaling the aroma. Do not be afraid to make sounds. And remember, you don't need to swallow!

As a bonus, Gennaro also showed us how to pull the perfect espresso using this Ferrari of a machine

So intense, this Italian guy! When I asked him how he feels about owning the most expensive
tongue in the world, he replied, "It is not easy. It is definitely a commitment. I have to make sure
our Mocha Italian blend remains consistent. It is the secret to Costa Coffee's success."

This perfect cup of flat white proved that Gennaro is doing an excellent job

 The Costa Coffee napkin pretty much summed up the masterclass. 
Meet old friends. Meet new coffees.

I met my old friends Rowena, Rache and Leslie, and we experienced new coffees in new ways.

Thank you, Costa Coffee and Gennaro Pelliccia, for making us feel 
like master tasters for a day!

Costa Coffee Website
Costa Coffee Facebook Page
Instagram: @costacoffeeph

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