Thursday, April 2, 2009

Friends and Foie

College was awesome.

Oh, I was a mediocre student, at best. I have always had bad study habits ever since I hit puberty, preferring to escape through paperbacks (the titles of which are too embarrassing to mention) while ignoring my math homework. Luckily, when I hit senior year in high school, my considerably good grades in History and English pulled up my average and put me on the upper 25% of our graduating class, making it possible for me to get into one of the top universities in the Philippines.

Aside from my regular visits to the state university nearby, breaks in between classes meant hanging out at the “quad” with a group we called Kappa Keps. Most of us met through our freshman block, which evolved as some people left and some were added. It is interesting to note that we all came from different high schools, choosing to expand our horizons instead of limiting ourselves to the usual cliques.

We were truly an interesting mix of characters coming from different backgrounds and covering all sorts of interests. Despite the obvious diversity, we were bound together by a common mantra: “Work hard, party harder”. It was a support system that worked very well for us because it was all-encompassing: we gave each other encouragement not only during tequila shots but also when beating a deadline for a 10-page paper; we drove each other home not only after parties but even when it meant getting stuck overnight at SLEX during a flood; we can go all-night finishing an International Politics paper (The BEST paper ever on China-Taiwan relations. Right, Pat?) ,while also staying up until the wee hours looking for a friend, only to find him passed out in front of Tequila Joe’s.

All of these memories came rushing back during a reunion dinner at Je Suis Gourmand recently. This came about when Sam (now based in London with her husband, James) contacted us through Facebook and announced that she and her hubby were visiting Manila for a few weeks. Lawyer/DJ Marc (we still call him by his nickname, Cookie) coordinated with everyone and decided that we should meet for dinner and drinks on a Friday. Since I remember Sam leaving a lengthy comment in one of my blog entries about Je Suis Gourmand a couple of years back, I thought that the popular French bistro would be the perfect place for our reunion. Another good reason is the new menu which promised to offer new and exciting dishes.

Although a few did not make it (some had prior plans, others were abroad), the ones who were there had a ball recalling crazier times. The receptionist had the foresight of seating our rowdy group at the back where we would not bother the other customers with our belly-laughs and obscene references.

As our party slowly trickled in, we sipped our glasses of Sangiovese as we munched on the appetizers: Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms with Egg and Cream, Pork and Duck Rillettes with Melba Toast Rounds, Roasted Bone Marrow on Crutons with Mesclun Salad and Gourmand’s famous Foie gras Terrine. We recalled how a whole bunch of us boarded Pia’s van to pick up “something” from “someone’s” house. An hour later, we were back at the quad drinking gallons of iced tea and eating one beef wrap after another. Good times. Better if I can remember most of it.

For the main course, I ordered the Lamb Chop, Tenderloin and Merguez Sausage with Steamed Vegetable Couscous, which I have been dreaming of all week. The lamb chop was perfectly medium, the sausage bursting with spicy, pungent complexity. Best of all was the lamb tenderloin, which was pillow-soft and juicy. I am totally smitten.

Matt had his favorite Lamb Shank, but this time with potato puree. Chef Marc Aubry also sent out a few complimentary servings of reosti (fried shredded potato) which Matt regularly requests for. Although increasingly growing embarrassed for his apparent lack of diversity when it comes to food, Matt just could not say no to this dish.

Sam, perfectly at home with Britannia’s love for exotic animal parts, ordered the Veal Kidneys in Mustard Sauce with Fries and Roasted Vegetables. I remember Chef Marc preparing sweetbreads the same way and me loving it. I had a bite of it and liked how the acidy of the sauce cut through the thick, mouth-coating flavor of the kidney.

James, a self-proclaimed cassoulet lover, had the Cassoulet “Gourmand” with Duck Confit. I was not able to taste this dish (and now I regret not doing so) but James assured me that it was excellent. For sure, I will be ordering this on my next visit.

Pia and Mara had the Local Sea Bass with Tomato Salsa and Polenta and the Sea Bass with Saffron Risotto, respectively. The girls were both raving about their fish main courses and were planning return visits way before polishing off their plates.

Chef Mon, who came late with a very pregnant and blooming Pat, decided on the Beef Onglet with Fries and Mesclun Salad.

We lingered a bit longer after we finished our meals one after another, smoking cigarettes outside and finishing off our wine. After deciding where to move our party, we gave our profuse thanks to the now-tipsy Chef Marc (dinner service was long over and he has joined a rowdy table of birthday revelers outside) who modestly received compliments from both his old and new fans. As usual, Matt and I promise to return soon, while our friends who have eaten there for the first time continue to rave about the outstanding food and service.

As Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Nothing could be a better description of my days as a college student. But, unlike the dark saga, my story was heavily-sprinkled with laughter, crazy anecdotes and the mutual affection of wonderful friends.
To my buddies… It was nice seeing you all again.

Je Suis Gourmand
Net One Center
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Tel. no. (632) 8158801


Noel said...

...breaks in between classes meant hanging out at the “quad”....

My group used to hang out at the admi....also a very diverse group. Only 2 of us were blue-through-and-through (myself included) while others came from Xavier, San Agustine, Don Bosco, JASMS and even as far as Phillips Exeter Academy and Georgetown Prep. We were quite a menagerie of indios (bravos), chinoys and tisoys/tisays - we looked like a zoo really. Good old days indeed.

So, this dinner was a few hours after sina Mig and I left? You and Matt avoiding us or something?

Well, we're there tomorrow lunch so you know where not to be....

Chinkee said...

Hey hey hey! Wait a minute... I think you're the one who's avoiding us! Why can't you have wine dinners like us little people instead of lunch? I guess that's a perk that comes with being a big-shot lawyer. Now I wish I took college more seriously, then I'll just be playing golf in the morning and drinking good wine during lunch with stockbrokers and doctors.:-P

But seriously, let me know when you'll be in gourmand during dinner time. I wanna try the escargot and cassoulet...:-)

MrsLavendula said...

looks like it was a fun dinner! thanx for visit our site and yes, you must try the crispy pata in cafe juanita one of these days!

Chinkee said...

Hi Mrs. Lavendula! Yes, it was a great dinner enjoyed by all:-) Thanks also for visiting my site!

Noel said...

Why can't you have wine dinners like us little people instead of lunch?

Sino'ng "little"? If I recall correctly, you are taller than I. Heh heh.

We have lunches because matanda na kami...have to sleep early.

Chinkee said...

Hahahaha! Ah ganun ba yon? Sige na nga...

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Miguel said...

Yes - plus its harder to digest the food during dinner....hahaha