Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Couscous That Haunts Me

It is very seldom that we are in Manila during Halloween. When we were younger, we would either jet-off to nearby Asian countries, or maybe go to the beach. My dad's birthday is on the 29th, so that's one more reason to celebrate the "festivities" with a family trip.

This year, we have decided to stay in Manila. We wanted to go to the beach, but with the horrendous weather, it is impractical, if not downright impossible. Having outgrown trick-or-treating and raves, I had to find a way to celebrate this occasion somehow. Luckily, I'm on Chef Marc Aubry's cellphone contacts list of "People Who Are Always Hungry" and texted me about his special for the weekend: Couscous (a grainy starch made out of Semolina flour, popular in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine). "I've been craving for couscous!", I tell myself. So I drag Matt and our BFF, TG-Boy, to my favorite bistro, Je Suis Gourmand.

Ravenous, we ordered the Tarte Flambee (a pizza-like crust topped with caramelized onions and bacon) and our all-time favorite Foie Gras Terrine with Mesclun Greens and Melba Toast to start. While waiting, I had my bottle of Chateau St-Jacques 2003 poured into a decanter and chilled to "the closest you can get to 17" degrees Celcius, as instructed by Weinmeister Noel.

I remember having a bottle of the 2000 St-Jacques a few years back and I recall vividly how full-bodied and tannic it was. So imagine my surprise when- after 20-30 minutes breathing time and brought down to the proper temperature- I took a sip of the 2003 and found it to be pleasantly mellow and approachable, with pronounced berry notes and leather, the finish still long and just slightly hot.

I finally get the importance of decanting: Not only does it remove unwanted sediments from older wines, but it also allows younger wines to aerate and open up their bouquets. I used to think that its just something frivolous wine snobs do, but now I know that there really is a purpose behind it. I think I like decanting.

Excited by my latest wine discovery, I wait anxiously for our main course: the Couscous dish and Rib-eye with Fries and Mesclun Salad. The couscous was topped with two slices of lamb chops and two thin sausages, served with a bowl of flavorful broth and harissa (a Tunisian sauce made from hot chilis, garlic, cumin, caraway, corriander and olive oil). The lamb chops were so tender and juicy that neither TG-boy nor I bothered to offer Matt a taste. The sausages, too, were delicious and Matt commented that he can have those for breakfast everyday. For the first time, the steak- although perfectly cooked and tasty with its rich bearnaise sauce- was not the star of our meal.

Stuffed and deliriously happy, we were ready for our Halloween party at Heirarchy. I forgot to bring my camera, so its too bad that I cannot show off my groovy hippie costume and TG-Boy's awesome bellhop outfit. We had a great time partying with birthday boy Chris (who stole the show as a 6'3" Breathalizer), Reena, Thea and the rest of the the Steak Productions Posse. Funny, though ,because the next day, all I could think about was that couscous.

I know. I need to get a life.

*photo of couscous and Chateau Saint-Jacques 2003 from Noel of

Je Suis Gourmand
Net one Plaza
Bonifacio Global City
(632) 8158801


Noel said...

Hi, Chinkee. Good to know you enjoyed the '03 St-Jacques. I'll send the link of this to Edouard. Yes, decanting this youngster certainly does help.

As you already know, I was at Gourmand the evening after you went and also had, among others, the '03 St-Jacques as well as the couscous.

My thoughts on the wine are the same as you wrote, and on the couscous as well. You're absolutely right, the lamb was so tender and nicely smokey.



Chinkee said...

Hi Noel! Thanks for recommending that wine... I still have a couple of bottles at home and I will most certainly be not sharing those with my friends. Hehe. Yup, your friend should know that he makes awesome wine... but I'm sure he knows that already.:-)

Matt is in love with that couscous... He's already planning a return visit, and usually I'm the one who has to bug him to go to Gourmand. Marc checked up on us and asked if our food was ok, I had to roll my eyes at him and say, "You KNOW its good!" Hahahaha!

Miguel said...

Hmmm I wonder how can I get in that text list of Chef Marc....

St Jacques is very good and if you decant it even better....and the coucous...hmm what can i say looks delicious...

Chinkee said...

Hi Miguel! I'll give Marc your number, if you'll give Senor de Terry mine. Hahahaha!

I was really stubborn about decanting because I thought it was "maarte", but it really helps! Its good to have blogger friends like you and Noel showing me the ropes.:-)

Miguel said...

Sure hehehe....Yes decanting is very important but also depends onwgat wine.

Noel is the expert on the wines - I still have a lot to learn from in a lot :)

Cosmopolicious said...

mmmm yummy. i just had couscous with merguez and lamb yesterday too!! looking forward to our peking duck tonight!!!

Chinkee said...

So good, noh? Kadiri nga because I sound like such a fan. But, what can I do? I love the food there.:-)

I'm excited about the duck too! See you later, sexy;-)

Noel said...

Peking duck?

Not inviting, o!!!

Kidding aside, if you like shark's fin and roast pigeon, try out Choi Garden on Annapolis in Greenhills. Best pigeon in the Philippines I've tried and the shark's fin is also excellent (whole pieces, not just "retaso").

Enjoy yourself!


p.s. Re-tried Ci├žou last night. Very good indeed.

Chinkee said...

Hi Noel! Yup, I heard about the pigeon at Choi Garden... that's what my friends were talking about while we were devouring our Peking Duck last night. We were already planning on ordering one pigeon each and fried rice. Grabe, there's something wrong with us. Hahaha!

Was supposed to bring a bottle of Pinot Gris last night, but my friends didn't feel like drinking. Did not want to look like a lush drinking a whole bottle by myself. Hehe. Yup, next time I should just invite you, at least I'll have an excuse ("But, but... Noel said I should try it!"). :-)

Miguel said...

Wow peking duck...hmm and ive been wanting to try Choi Garden....gotta go there soon..

Chinkee said...

Yeah its really good daw according to the Chinese Connection. Hehe.

Miguel, guess what I just discovered... You're Marga's cousin pala! We went to high school and college together! I was one of her first friends in hs when she transferred from St. Scho. I tried to corrupt her but, no, her bubble of goodness cannot be penetrated. Hahaha! Remember my anecdote about La Boheme in CCP? I watched that with her and ate in Korean Village with her parents! Haha! Small world...

Miguel said...

What a small world yes...yes you are right about her bubble of goodness...

Gotta go to Choi Grden soon hehe :)