Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vicky Clemente's MAMA'S TABLE, Baguio

Chef Vicky Clemente was a banker who, at 50, decided to follow her true passion (la vie culinaire-- did I just murder the language?) and took up the appropriate cooking classes at some fancy shmancy French culinary institute abroad. She now does private degustations for guests in her own beautiful home. I'm not the type to be impressed by houses (it's a rare occasion that I visit a house or hotel that leaves me truly awestruck) but I was definitely impressed by hers! It had so much PERSONALITY in it, and it evoked a lazy, eccentric, old-rich feeling. It was EXTREMELY high-ceilinged with ENORMOUS windows. The best part was the sofas-- print on print on print! Not to mention they were on Indian rugs. It is one of the most beautiful houses I've ever been to.

My beloved sofas
There was also a fireplace, and a pretty tree with tinsel on it (reminded me of my grandmother, who thoroughly exalted the merits of tinsel), and a beautiful garden outside, absolutely full of hydrangeas and other darling flowers...

Upon arrival, Chef Vicky told the kids to have hotdogs and marshmallows. She had prepared long bamboo skewers on which to roast the goodies. She also had very, very tasty snacks for the non-kids:

I went absolutely nuts. There were four different kinds of bread: an herby one, a brown nutty one (with actual nuts), crostini, and a plain thick chewy one! And also five different dips: an amazing artichoke dip, a lovely tomato and olive oil dip, a bleu cheese and basil dip, an eggplant and red wine dip, and pate. There were also walnuts and cranberries. Everything tasted so good! 

An HOUR or so after we arrived (yes, an hour. That's the part I didn't like at all, the waiting part!) dinner was served.

First up was amuse de bouche. It was sauteed mushrooms on very buttery toast, topped with lots of parmesan. (Everything is going to be straightforward, description-wise, on this blog, as Chef Vicky only described each dish to us, and there was no menu for me to photograph). It was perfect. The mushrooms were so fresh and tasty, and the toast was buttery and rich and soft and crunchy at the same time..


After I had taken a bite out of it :D

Next up was carrot, onion, and leek soup, topped with buttery parmesan encrusted croutons. Also a winner! It was lovely as I was sitting with my back toward the garden door and it was a tad cold, so this soup really made me happy.

Then we had an intermezzo, of Swedish meatball with lingonberry sauce. This was WORLD'S APART from what I had at Ikea! Absolutely tasty! I loved it so much! The meat was so perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavorful...

The fish dish was salmon, snow peas, buttered grapes, a butter-lemon-and-egg sauce, and an edible flower!! Chef Vicky told us to tear up the flower and eat it along with everything, as it had a peppery taste.

Then another intermezzo: onion tart. I found this to be a tad TOO salty: it had anchovies, onions, and olives on a small tart case. It was good but for the saltiness and the slight itchiness of the anchovies.

Then the beef course: roast beef with mushrooms and new potatoes with gravy. I'm so sorry but, as with the salmon, it was nothing really spectacular of jaw-droppingly wonderful.

The last "food" course was a Moroccan salad. Tangerines, dates, almonds, watercress, and Romaine, with a citrusy dressing. It was good and something new. Chef told us to eat everything together (every mouthful should have a bit of it all) and it tasted so nice together-- such harmony! I especially loved the almonds, they were so fresh!

And here is dessert. Confession: I totally lost all control and ATE ALL OF IT. Maybe because it was the Christmas season, maybe because it was just really good, maybe because I'm a bit of a pig, or maybe (just maybeee) because the whole degustation had kept me on my toes and thus gave me this strong urge to eat everything, JUST EVERYTHING!

The dessert was a meringue served with cream, peaches, a single strawberry, and chocolate sauce (that tasted a little like Hershey's syrup). Can I just say: the meringue was amazing. It was perfect and light and not at all sweet. It was crunchy and soft and melt-in-your-mouth!

All in all, it was a great experience. I loved the ambience and the company was just wonderful. I really appreciated how Chef Vicky changed some of the courses just for my dad, who doesn't eat beef. So instead of the Swedish meatball, she gave my dad a prawn cocktail with mango salsa. And instead of the roast beef, he was served lamb instead. I guess that totally encapsulates how it was with Chef Vicky-- it was not at all a restaurant experience but more of a wonderful family dinner. She was so sweet and pleasant and funny and earnest and talented. 

Cheers!! :)

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