An hour’s road trip outside of Metro Manila had much promise after accepting an invitation to attend the annual Goût de France dinner at Anya in Tagaytay. The yearly celebration promoting French cuisine is enough to get a gastronome excited, but the fact that it was held at one of the country’s premiere luxury resorts was an absolute bonus. It isn’t a surprise that the Elizalde-owned getaway was selected to host one of the 18 dinners in the country, as the hotel believes in the mantra of showcasing true luxury, something the French believes in as well, and excels at when it comes to the creation of their cuisine.
Anya, undoubtedly knows how to entertain their guests and throw a smashing dinner party. Their hotel amentias and services were the ideal prescription prior to a night of eating rich food. A quick dip in the infinity pool, a cocktail or two, and a de-stressing session at the spa were necessities while waiting for dinner. They had selected and invited a group of food lovers and media personalities to come up to the resort to enjoy a meticulously planned night meant to showcase only the best of French cooking. Around the world 3,000 chefs were participating in Goût de France, and Anya’s signature restaurant Samira was one of the lucky few.
The French food movement (which translates to “Good France”) was founded in 1912 by a famous French chef named Auguste Escoffier, who had a goal that one day, one menu will be served to as many guests as possible around the world. He longed to promote French cuisine to a global audience. The tradition stuck, and year after year, Goût de France has become an anticipated event in the world of culinary. Today, the event has found a leader in the acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse, who approves each and every menu cooked on the evening of March 21st.
A Little France in Tagaytay
When the sun began to set, the foodie visitors of Anya made their way to the main lobby for a special cocktail reception. An abundance of bubbly and a special ravioli-like hors d’oeuvre served on shells were served as aperitifs. As conversation about food (both French and Filipino) were thrown about the room during happy hour, everybody’s mouths salivated with the promise of the upcoming five-course meal. It was announced that the evening’s special menu was personally handled by Anya’s Director of Operations Mikel Arriet and General Manager Peter D’Souza, in collaboration with the team behind Samira restaurant.
Cocktails concluded soon enough and the group was escorted to the Samira. As the doors of the restaurant opened, diners were pleased with the sight. Samira had been transformed into a French bistro for the night. The tablescapes were simply covered with crisp white dining clothes. On to tabletops were candles and pots of flowers. The setting embodied true understated elegance. Classic French music filled the room with the sounds of saxophones and trumpets, transporting each and every guest to a romanticized version of Paris in the 1950s. The mood was ideal for a dinner such as this. We were there to eat, and eat we did.
Rich Food is Always Welcome
After finding our places around the table, baskets of freshly-baked bread as soft as clouds were immediately served with a side of butter. Soon after, the first course made its way out of the kitchen. Eyes glowed as the wait staff placed a plate of the chef’s Foeie Gras Terrine in front of each person. People remarked of the sinfulness of the dish that consists of a very generous portion of foie gras, and served with roasted pear, onion, chutney, and homemade brioche. As soon as the first bite touched the lips, the room was filled with a symphony of sighs on how delicious it was. People closed their eyes and they tasted the wonderful creation that melted on their tongues. The journey had officially begun rich, and it was only the first course.
The second course was not any less sinful, but with the fanfare that the first course received, nobody cared. Diets were thrown out of the window and lost in Tagaytay woods, and rich food was all that everybody craved. The Pan Fried Scallop Topped with Black Caviar was the ideal follow up to the foie gras dish. It was complimented with green asparagus, crunchu beetroot and foam, and served with Brittany sauce. Slicing through the fried scallop was easy, as the chef had cooked it with such tender perfection. We never forgot to make sure that each bite was accompanied by black caviar, which provided a sensation in the mouth each time a sphere of the delicacy popped.
Such is Life
Duck Breast Sous Vide with carrot textures, broccoli flowers, and orange au jus served as the main course of the evening. It was an exciting plate to see, especially with the bright pink color of the tender duck breast taking center stage and looking as appetizing as ever. It was as good as expected, with the savory juices coming out of the meat with every bite, helping balance out the rich texture of the orange au just that it came with. It was also an additional luxury to know that an unlimited supply of wine was available during the evening to help bring down the food, just as the French would.
It would not be a celebration of French gastronomy without a variety of cheeses to choose from. A large French Cheese Trolley was pushed out of the kitchen and wheeled into the dining room. Eyes lit up as a selection of premium cheeses sat on top of the cart in all its glory. It was a theatrical moment as the wait staff chopped off pieces from large wheels, allowing guests to try everything. The cheeses were then served on white plates with a variation of jams, dried fruit, and soft breads. Dessert soon followed suit, and it was a fan favorite. Apple Tarte Tatin is one of the most famous French desserts, and Samira’s version was eye-catching as it was tasty. Made as a tribute to innovative French chef Paul Bocuse, the dish looked like art on a plate. It was the ideal closing to such a rich meal.
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When dinner concluded, many ordered tea to help their digestive tracks. Others, including myself, remained to sip on French cognac instead. After such a meal, the idea of a slight buzz before heading off to bed was particularly attractive. When goodnights were being said, diners at the Anya Goût de France dinner were left with a final surprise: a box of three palm-sized macrons in the colors of the French flag. The crowd laughed with joy while looking at their gifted confections, saying they were too full to try it. I for one, went back to my suite, opened the box and indulged in the macrons. I didn’t care, it was a night to celebrate French cuisine around the world, and that’s what I wanted to do. C’est la vie!
By Chino R. Hernandez