In seach of budget steaks for P400 or less By Jason Drilon Photo by Christian Regis Admittedly, when it comes to steak, nothing beats a good, thick cut of wagyu or angus-grade beef. But savoring premium meats means you have to pay through the nose. And if you are a semi-frugal foodie like me, shelling out upwards of P2,000 for a steak dinner simply cannot be a regular thing. So where does one go for a decently priced beef fix? There are plenty to choose from within the metro. Some budget steak joints like House of Minis and Sizzling Plate have been around for years, while recent players like Steak MD and Hot Rocks are attracting a new generation of carnivores-on-a-budget. They offer classic cuts from T-bone to ribeye at a more affordable P99 to P400. What goes into a budget steak then? For one thing, all the beef is sourced locally, mostly from Batangas. And we all know what Batangas-grade beef can be like: sinewy and tough like leather. In spite of these limitations, quite a few restaurants actually manage to serve relatively tender and tasty steak dishes. Prep methods vary per restaurant, but some common characteristics arise: Cuts, for example, are quite thin. Paula Escobar, owner of Borromeo Steakhouse in Quezon City, says some restaurants slice as much as six (maybe more) pieces of steak from a kilo of local ribeye. That gives you an average of 167 grams per steak--and that's not much steak to begin with. To further tenderize the beef, it is pounded thin and marinated in spices (most likely some sugar, vinegar or calamansi and a bit of soy sauce, though some places like Steak MD use dry rubs to flavor their meat) for several days. Some season the meat only upon order. Also the use of homemade gravy is prevalent. Escobar says that Filipinos are more attuned to concentrated flavor and saltiness, citing adobo as example. Several restaurants practically drown their offerings in gravy, leaving the meat more of a texture rather than the main focus of the meal. And almost always, the steaks are well done. This can be attributed to their thinness, but a dining companion explained that in general, Filipinos seem to prefer food "cooked to the bone." This is presumably to get rid of any food-borne pathogens that may have attached themselves in storage and preparation of the dish. Escobar comments that she rarely has customers who order steak that is rare to medium. Each restaurant has its own style on sidings. Some serve complete meals with fixings and a soft drink. With Filipinos, rice is a constant, while other places add mashed potatoes and boiled vegetables into the mix. But the main focus here is the meat. For some, it's enough to see a large steak on a plate, though 1/4 inch thin. Others insist on larger, thicker cuts. Also, each steak joint has its own "house favorite" steak, usually a toss-up between a T-bone or a ribeye, as with Everything at Steak in San Juan. Borromeo Steakhouse's bestseller is the Jumbo Steak, a 330-gram striploin, which at P315 provides good value and is most definitely a meal in itself. Ultimately, though, it's up to the diner to choose the best piece of meat to suit his or her appetite. There is no set demographic to the budget carnivore. The only constant is that the diner is most probably in search of a hearty meal. And in making the rounds of some restaurants, you see a good mix of students, businessmen, families and even the SUV-with-hagad types. Steak does not discriminate. Escobar confesses that her restaurant has a huge show biz following, as ABS-CBN is only a street away. A few things to remember when going to these restaurants: with the budget price comes budget ambiance. These restaurants are rarely air-conditioned and most likely are concrete and formica boxes fitted out with cheap tables, monobloc chairs and requisite flimsy cutlery. After all, that's what steak on the cheap is all about: meat without the trimmings. Tender tips: Borromeo Steakhouse's Paula Escobar gives a few tips on getting and preparing meat at home or for your business: 1) Find a good meat supplier. You can get great, tender local cuts of meat IF you know where to look. According to Escobar, supermarket meat is quite expensive , so you must be willing to ferret out a supplier -- even if it means going to the local markets. 2) To save costs, buy steak in bulk (most likely in 1-kilo slabs) and have it trimmed down to size. 3) Before freezing, wrap each steak in plastic wrap so the individual steaks don't stick to each other. Nothing spoils prep more than trying to pry steaks that are glued together. 4) Grilled steak is always the best, and not only because of those visually appealing grill marks. Pan-frying should be reserved for dishes like salpicao. Published in the November-December 2007 issue of F&B World Magazine
November 2007 Archives
What better way to commemorate 2007 than by paying tribute to the Philippine culinary team who recently won gold at the Hong Kong Food International Cooking Classic earlier this year. A topnotch team of Filipino chefs dominated this international competition by winning Gold in the Cold Buffet category, and winning the “Best of the Best” trophy. To inspire our future chefs, F&B World Magazine honors this winning culinary team on the cover of its latest issue, now available in newsstands around the country for only P125. To further inspire its readers, F&B World debuts its annual “honor roll” to pay tribute to industry personalities who have created a real impact in their fields—businessman George Yang of McDonald’s, restaurateur Larry J. Cruz of Café Adriatico fame, and Chef Norbert Gandler of ISCAHM. F&B World always sets its sights on the latest industry trends and, these days, it’s obvious that steaks and steakhouses have become quite popular. The latest issue visits several of them—from budget-friendly Borromeo Steakhouse to upscale Highlands Steakhouse—and learns something new about super premium Wagyu and Angus beef as well. A few more foodservice themes run through this latest issue—the importance of HR training, lessons in restaurant management from the partners of Duo Steakhouse, a look at menu designs, and a primer on chef’s knives. Industry events are also plentiful and F&B World makes sure to cover most of them, like this year’s National Coffee Forum, the Tuna Festival in General Santos City, the hospitality industry’s Mabuhay Awards, as well as a myriad of culinary competitions around the country. Every issue of F&B World is packed with information. Regular features on customer service, food safety, back-of-house operations and marketing can be read over and over. Be sure to use the magazine's F&B Sourcebook, a directory of established suppliers of foodservice ingredients and equipment. Then, read about new food products, book reviews, and the latest industry events happening around town. Sweet tooths can check out Baking Press, a stand-alone magazine inserted inside F&B World. Baking Press is the country’s first and only publication dedicated to baking and pastry professionals and aficionados. Every end of the year, Baking Press dedicates its issue to chocolate. This year, learn about interesting chocolate products, whether it’s imported single origin chocolate or local tsokolate. Chef Ernie Babaran provides a step-by-step demonstration of his fabulous Warm Chocolate Truffle Cake that oozes with a dark chocolate ganache inside. Also, Heny Sison shares a recipe for Chocolate Mousse, courtesy of Makati Shangri-La’s pastry chef, that is literally out of this world!
By Marilen Fontanilla "Can we offer you something to drink?" For most food and beverage outlets, savvy servers distract customers from looking at the menu with this line. By offering up a bevy of special drinks that they have to push, servers find that most customers will either go with the push or more discreetly say “Later,” affording them the chance to peruse the beverage list at leisure. It is at this point that a well-crafted beverage menu can best highlight the outlet's liquid offerings. F&B World goes behind the bar to let our readers take a peek at the other side of food and beverage operations -- see how beverage menu offerings interplay with inventory management and cost considerations. Pouring over the menu The sensible rule of thumb for any outlet's drink list is, if you have it on hand in your bar, offer it to your customers in your beverage menu. How do you decide what drinks to offer? How much variety should you have for each kind? For a restaurant, this is already quite a task – imagine the question multiplied four times in a hotel with a multitude of outlets. Marc Cerqueda, Food and Beverage Director for Hotel Intercontinental Manila, gives us a close view of this rather painstaking process. " Ordinarily, offering one beverage menu would be acceptable for one food outlet. However, for a hotel this is not the case. At our hotel, it is the F&B Director together with the particular Outlet Manager who decides what beverages will best suit each outlet. In bigger hotels, which have either an Assistant F&B Director or even a Beverage Manager (those with at least 6 F&B outlets), this would be the key person directly involved with this task." In the case of Hotel Intercontinental, this means considering the outlet's theme and target market to see what drinks will best fit that crowd. In Prince Albert Rotisserie's case, this includes a substantial wine list that is heavy on the French influence (Champagnes are a given) to represent the major French regions from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Cote du Rhone and Southwest France, aside from cognacs, and aperitifs. Gambrinus, Intercon's newest outlet – a lobby lounge that also doubles as the hotel bar – on the other hand, offers drinks from cocktails and beers, which are stress-busters, Cerqueda notes. Wines are mostly from the New World regions of the United States, Australia and South America. The Jeepney Coffee Shop will offer beverages from juices, coffee, tea and a limited selection of wines by the glass, although as Cerqueda adds, coffee, juice and tea sales are technically counted as part of the food sales, and not beverage sales since these are food purchases. The only beverage menu with no constraints on it would be the room service menu, staying true to the aforementioned rule of offering everything in the bar from coffee, tea, and especially wines. "We intentionally offer wines, including Champagnes, since we have discovered that guests may be in a celebratory mood. Even the most expensive wines are included, since you do not lose anything by mentioning it. It is part of the hotel inventory." The only exclusion in room service would be mixed drinks – sorry folks, cocktails are not served in the hotel room. That is the purpose of the mini bar, since guests can serve themselves. For room service menus, simplicity is key in the beverage offerings – nothing too complicated. Even menu design has some different schools of thought – or in this case, hotels of thought, as Cerqueda gamely explains the new menu designs for room service used by various hotels. There is what he calls the "School of Mandarin", which recently came out with a menu in magazine format, complete with glossy paper, bright colors and photos. The advantage to this is that it appeals to guests who do not want to be surprised when placing an order from the room – it removes that element of uncertainty while playing on the impulse buying need inherent in guests. There is also the "School of Simplicity", as embodied by hotels such as the Peninsula, Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton, with their elegant feel and predominant black and white colors. These menus embody the standards of the hotel in their design and content. Intercon, on the other hand, has recently introduced a new brand standard, with their room service menu and drink list included in the directory services compendium. Combining a little of both menu styles, the menu can be changed as needed to meet the demands of the guests. A new introduction to room service beverage menus in Intercon was born out of Cerqueda's innate passion for wines. Each room has a separate wine list complete with wine descriptions for those not so familiar with them. Cerqueda’s canny move has resulted in more wine sales for guest rooms than in the Prince Albert outlet. Whether opting for a picturesque menu or a simpler style, beverage descriptions are quite important in any form, as seen in this case. The price is right Deciding on the selling price for beverage items is another task that falls under the purview of the F&B Director. Again, it is the specific outlet which influences the price factor. In hotels, the highest mark-up would be for room service menu items. Next to that, Gambrinus for Intercon has a high mark-up, slightly below that of room service. According the Cerqueda, one of the deciding factors here is the low cost percentage the outlet presents for the hotel, giving the hotel one of its main sources for beverage revenue. Even with the happy hour "buy one take one" promo, the final effect with guests staying longer and ordering more results in a win-win situation for everyone concerned. Going, going, gone! The variety of beverage items and how to sell it to guests can be quite a daunting task to tackle. Prince Albert has a wine list of 50 French wines – a number that Cerqueda jokes is actually quite small compared to other hotels. However, his concern is moving the beverage inventory on a regular basis, and not getting stuck with an excess of stagnant bottles. Hence, he has each outlet use different selling techniques to push their stock. Gambrinus and Jeepney Coffee Shop can sell wines by the glass, but Prince Albert only sells by the bottle – to prevent too many opened bottles as a result. This forestalls a decrease in quality for the wines if they are not sold or consumed within the appropriate time. He also advises against special monthly drink offers. Although this approach generates interest and sales for that particular drink, it works against the other beverage offerings. "All the drinks should be the drink of the month – not just one." Even the term "house wines" is something Cerqueda prefers not to use, as this can connote a wine of lesser quality. "We sell wine by saying these are the wines we offer by the glass." For those in the process of creating a beverage menu, Cerqueda points out the importance of finding the right balance between alcoholic and non-alcoholic offerings, while staying within the confines of the restaurant's theme. It also helps to have a signature drink that can be the anchor for the beverage menu and a selling point for the outlet. Drink to the future The past two years have been marked by a tremendous increase of local interest in wines. Cerqueda notes that it is a timely combination of widespread general appreciation and the appearance of more wine suppliers with more affordable prices. A recent trend he noted has been the increase in sales of vodka, which he attributes to the South Beach Diet/Atkins craze, both of which allow only vodka as part of the diet. For the future, he sees more healthy choices being availed of by consumers, particularly the organic trend now sweeping Europe. The secret to selling more beverages is in knowing what beverages to offer your guests, selling it to your guests at the right price in a well-crafted beverage list that reflects your establishment. Sante!
By Corinna Arcellana Nuqui Photo by Mary Rose Peña To make pies and tarts, learn with both hands and heart “Mettre la main à la pâte.” There is a French saying, which applies to all endeavors, but it is apt for the pastry arts. One learns by putting one’s hands to work, by learning the feel and look of the pâte, or pastry crust, as it were. There is only so much reading and study possible from the sidelines. There is no substitute for acquiring pastry hands to present perfect pies and tarts. Learning to make a piecrust is one journey to tenderness. As a young girl, I tried to make crust after reading “The Joy of Cooking”, using two butter knives to blend the butter into the flour, adding too much water, taking up more flour. I made one novice mistake after another, shaping the overworked pie crust neatly along the edges of the pan, rendering it pretty, but tough. To get tenderness, I had to learn when to pat and push in ‘fraisage’, and when to hold back, much as I had to do when faced with matters of the heart. In culinary school, I learned that pastry requires light hands, but brave ones, to risk melting butter in possibly “hot” hands, to rub fat into flour with fingers nimble and efficient. As I made fillings ranging from airy chiffon to denser baked custards, I saw the separate disciplines of science and art meet in between crusts. What is not done right in the beginning can haunt the ending, and whipped topping cannot conceal all sins. It’s about concentration, looking for the finishing point is a matter of mindfulness. To get a finger or two of depth into pie and tart production, it is good to consult practiced bakers. This writer interviewed three chefs, Jackie Ang Po of Fleur de Lys, Patrick Fournes and Rolando ‘Mac’ Macatangay of Hotel InterContinental Manila. Starting with questions of exteriors, there is no better source than to ask a European chef with classical training and kitchen smarts. Chef Patrick Fournes, the Executive Chef of Hotel Intercontinental Manila, discloses what he sees as an affection for crust among Filipinos. He doesn’t mean the upper crust of pies, but the bottom crusts which are often heftier and thicker than European counterparts. He interprets this as a wish for more sustenance: “They want to see more, bite into something more substantial.” Chef Mac Macatangay uses disarming humor, cracking jokes on stories of this writer’s past with both baking and tenderness, before settling down to be interviewed. He shared that “sealing” the crust against sogginess can introduce a colorful stripe, with the use of raspberry jam in a linzer tart, or add another flavor, like melted chocolate to line the inside of pastry shell. The more popular tarts are fruit based and have pastry cream in a basic sablé or sucrée shell. Macatangay observes, “Europeans enjoy their liqueurs as flavoring.” Fournes adds, “local customers have preferred less crème patisserie, and more fruit. We’ve had to use custard sparingly, as if it were just the glue to marry topping to the crust.” To create a new dessert, Fournes and Macatangay presented a polvoron-like sable open-faced tart topped with a fresh mango rose on coconut cream. The balance of crumbly crust and sweet mango flesh made this memorable. A visit to Jackie Ang Po’s shop, Fleur de Lys, shows that she has an eye for the classics: banana cream tart with dulce de leche, frozen mango cream pie, an apple pie and a macadamia nut tart. What are some common student mistakes with pies and crusts that you can warn them about? “Being impatient.” Intones Ang-Po. She maintains that perfection takes time, which includes a resting or waiting period. In this case, the pastry is perfected from the outside going in. Macatangay adds, “too soft a dough, or shrinkage, is to be avoided.” Sometimes the charm of a tart is in the crust, as in Fleur de Lys’ banana dulce de leche pie, with gingersnap crumbs providing a counterpoint to the sweet milky filling and sliced bananas. A winning thickness of shortbread nests under a layer of caramelized macadamia nuts in a dessert Ang-Po calls “Nuts about you”. One can never escape the puns about love, especially when it comes to pastry, it seems. As for what’s inside? “Fillings are usually easy,” shares Ang-Po. It’s the crust that’s challenging to master. “It's the mixing of the dough and the resting time. No matter how good the filling tastes, if the crust is bad - gummy, too hard, misshapen, then the pie is not a success.” “Cooking fruits for pies is very economical,” says Macatangay, When faced with fruit that is ripening and even slightly past prime, one can be practical and make conserves or jam for tarts. Macatangay discloses that experience is the best teacher, as fresh fruit, when processed into fillings, can vary in acidity, sweetness, pectin. “Some berries or fruit become bitter after baking or after being mixed with other things,” he cautions. A peek at Harold McGee’s indispensable “On Food and Cooking” confirms this, citing that pineapple is one of those fruits which needs to be cooked a certain way or it will be bitter. Bromelin in pineapple also interferes with the setting of gelatin and can cause fillings to break down if not deactivated with cooking. Why don’t we see more native fruits in tarts? A trip around a local mall yields sweets from different regions and provinces: one can find nut tartlets of cashew and pili, boat tartlets of mango and durian, and there’s the ubiquituous buko pie, commonly attempted but seldom perfected. Ang-Po uses strawberries and mangoes while they are in season, reflecting that the appeal of a tart also lies in the way that sometimes it isn’t available. Macatangay presents pineapple, strawberries, grapes as fresh complements to pastry cream and tart shells in a buffet setting he designed. Reflecting well on both practical and seasonal passions, bakers can please as well as watch costs. Until this writer gets her wish, seeking eccentric pies made from sour kamias and tarts topped with crisp macopa, she will have to be content with what the present market offers. More bakers will distinguish themselves by using what is seasonal, fresh, and surprising along with the comfortable favorites. As Macatangay put it, one is remembered through association, whether it is through people or pastry. Affirming that the practice of this art is centered around food as gifts, Fournes points out that hotel-produced pastry and cake is often bought for special occasions. As pies and tarts can be offerings of love and esteem, it would serve a baker well to heed both the crust and the filling. From outer tenderness, to inner sweetness, the perfection of a pie can embody the best exchanges. Published in the September-October issue of Food and Beverage World Magazine
By Reggie Aspiras In a world where everyone seems to want a lifestyle that’s clean and healthy, never had tea and tisanes been more fashionable. By definition, tea is a beverage made by steeping parts of the Camellia sinensis – tea plant - leaves, buds or twigs in hot water. Two varieties are widely used: the Camellia sinensis sinensis and the Camellia sinensis assamica. The benefits of tea and its derivatives are countless. In ancient times and in Eastern medicine, many cures are attributed to such preparations. It is even believed that tea is one of the reasons why most tea consuming countries in the East have lower obesity rates and people known for their longevity. Tea facts and tips to better enjoy your cup: In picking tea, only “flushes” are picked. That is, only the upper part –buds and young leaves from a mature plant, are snipped. Much like wine, tea varies in flavor based on the “terroir,” where and how they are grown, the altitude, cultivation methods, etc. The world famous black Darjeeling tea is grown in the hilly tea gardens of Darjeeling in West Bengal, India. It is claimed that tea grown at higher elevations are far superior. Darjeeling that is properly brewed results in one of the most marvelous cups of toddy one could have - a “muscatel,” as tea enthusiasts call it, contains hints of tannin, visible floral notes and a sweet finish. Milk is added to tea to reduce acidity. The manner in which milk is added speaks of one’s social class. In England the working class, usually add milk and pour tea after. Those of the upper class , pour tea before milk. Some believe that putting cold milk before the tea makes a better cup as the reverse may scald the milk. There are 4 known true teas classified by the manner in which they are processed (the oxidation process). Black tea also known as Red tea, as many tea connoisseurs call it because of its color, is the most cultivated tea in Southeast Asia. The Chinese word for tea translates to red tea which is completely oxidized. Black tea leaves are best steeped in water temperatures between 100°C / 212°F. The general rule is, the more delicate the tea leaves, the lower water temperature is used for steeping Water that is too hot will burn the leaves. Steeping tea at the proper temperature will greatly affect its flavor. Ideally, black tea should not be steeped less than 30 seconds or more than 5 minutes. Oolong tea - semi oxidized, also classified as blue tea due to the oxidation process which stops somewhere between green and black tea. Steep Oolongs with water between 90°C to 100°C. Another tip to make pristine brews would be to use the purest water one can find. Spring water is best as the minerals react with the tannins, resulting in a more flavorful brew. Green tea – done with higher quality pekoe leaves (term to describe a medium grade black tea consisting of many single whole tea leaves of a specific size). The process begins 2 days after harvest. The process of oxidation is stopped by heat application or by steam. Leaves are left whole or made into pellets known as gun powder tea. Water temperature for green tea should be around 80°C to 85°C / 176°F to 185°F. Always remember to warm the teapot before adding the steeped tea so it does not cool down easily. First put hot water into the pot, then discard the water before brewing with fresh water. White tea is perhaps the rarest,much coveted by tea connoiseurs in the West. It consists of new growth buds that do not undergo oxidation. It is shaded to stop chlorophyll formation and it is the least produced tea because of its time consuming production yields a premium tea. The Tea Bag Almost all tea bags sold are made of blended teas. Teas that are grown from different areas are put together to achieve better flavor and an affordable price tag. One of the attributes of tea is that it is easily infused with different aromas and flavors. Tea Infusions / Tonics Tonics by definition would mean anything taken that invigorates and strengthens. Herbal Tea Infusions or Tisanes are considered as such. These are beverages where herbs, spices, fruits or a combination of both are steeped and infused together in hot water. The main difference is that “tea infusions,” “herbal infusions,” more correctly called Tisanes, usually contain no Camellia sinensis or real tea. One is associated with the other mainly by the steeping process. Herbal Tisanes, as they should be aptly called, are taken mostly for healing and invigorating properties. Most tisane recipes are century old remedies for common ailments. Other forms of tonic are decoctions, infusions of resin, barks and roots that are steeped in water longer than regular tea and infusions. Published on the September-October issue of F&B World