It was the 50th Anniversary of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Bailliage de Manille, and so the celebratory dinner at the Fairmont Makati Ballroom on Sept. 17 could only be expected to be memorable.
Advance notice from a couple of the organizers — Jay Labrador, Vice-Echanson de Manille, and Sanjeeb Gopaldas, Vice-Charge de Missions de Manille — came with such strong assurance after they had sampled the menu and discussed the wine pairings with chef Bela Rieck and his culinary team.
After all, each of the annual dinners that drew significant attendance from scores of local Chaîne members and their guests only served to promise that they would be matched, if not topped, by the next one.
I’ve been privileged to join most of these grand repasts for well over a decade now, as hosted by the Bailliage de Manille headed by Federico Borromeo, Bailli de Manille & Membre du Conseil Magistral. Each of these culinary showcases has been no less than outstanding.
For this year’s post-pandemic gathering, Freddie Borromeo collaborated with Chaîne officers Jay and Sanju to spare no detail that would contribute to excellence.
I still recall that on the 40th year, a Grand Chapitre International was held for five days in March 2012, with the formal dinner and induction of new members held at Sofitel Harbor Tent.
La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Association Mondiale de la Gastronomie was created under the 1901 French law regarding associations, with an international headquarters based in Paris. It has since expanded to include national chapters or chapitres and balliages in over 80 countries, with nearly 25,000 members — “bringing together enthusiasts who share the same values of quality, fine dining, the encouragement of the culinary arts and the pleasures of the table.”
Placing a premium on brotherhood, friendship, camaraderie, and sharing a passion for great culinary traditions, this global community welcomes amateurs and professionals, including hoteliers, restaurateurs, executive chefs, and sommeliers, in the appreciation of fine cuisine.
In our country, there are the Balliage de Manille and the Balliage de Cebu, both of the Balliage National des Philippines of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. The latter, which will have its 30th anniversary next year, is headed by Michel J. Lhuillier, La Chaîne’s Baili Delegue for the Philippines, and also a Member of the Conseil Magistral.
At the Fairmont Ballroom last month was one of the founding members of the Manila chapter which saw its start in 1972 — Filemon Juntereal, who regaled everyone from his wheelchair with amusing recollections and energetic quips.
The dinner’s theme was Cabaret 1931, for which entertainment was provided by Menchu Lauchengco, with appropriate song numbers and a demanded encore.
And now, for the menu:
Oyster and foie gras. Followed by uni custard, caviar, and pickled bird's eye chili. Both were paired with Mumm Brut Rose Champagne. Honestly, and this may have been due to a bad cold and runny nose, while the plating was characteristically splendid and both offerings had distinctive flavors, I thought that the primary ones of the oyster and the uni were quite concealed.
Then came creamy sweet pea soup with mint and steamed lobster money bag, paired with Schloss Lieser Riesling Kabinett 2018 from Mosel, Germany. I liked this, both the soup and the perfectly complementary wine that was acceptably sweet.
As a refresher, the kamias sorbet and dayap zest was not your typical palate cleanser, but was actually filling with its gelatin cubes. Sanju had commented in the teaser: “You can turn the sorbet into a drink, which I highly recommend.” I agree.
The main plate was sous vide pigeon breast crepinette, goat cheese jus lie, grilled carrot, and celeriac mash — paired with Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint Julien 2006 from Bordeaux, France. Now this was a champion of flavors layering, with each bite introducing different delights. The cheese, carrot, and celeriac mash were all such sterling consorts for the unique meat.
As if the escalation of gustatory appreciation would face a stiff challenge, the next offering was a full-plate surprise for dessert: German Black Forest cake façon Chef Béla & Team — Reinvented and rediscovered. True enough, fabulous reinvention went full swing for this offering (as a photo might indicate). The challenge became how to finish off the entire assortment ensemble. Oh, I failed that. Yet toasted to my defeat with G.E. Massenez Kirsch Vieux.
The freshly brewed coffee and petit fours I also had to decline, since the freezing ballroom had become less and less amenable to my condition.
Suffice it to say however that the feast has been imbedded in my memory.
Vive la Chaîne!