Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting Comfy

Comfort food is finally getting its day in the sun.

It was never really a dirty little secret, but it truly is by nature something best enjoyed when you are alone or not in the best state. For instance, nothing soothes (and de-clogs the sinuses) like a hot bowl of Chicken Arroz Caldo, especially the one that our late Yaya Josie used to make. To numb the throbbing pain of a broken heart, women (and some men) everywhere swear by the healing power of ice cream. After a tough day in school or at work, a heaping plate of pasta made by a loved one can turn around even the worst of days.

Although it is not exactly surprising to find pasta and rich soups in a menu, to elevate comfort food into “gourmet food” is something that Apartment 1B can take credit for. This restaurant has had quite a following since it opened its doors two years ago and has proven that comfort food need not be shabby. They took everyday dishes, such as meatloaf, and made them what they are hoping to be the best one you have ever tasted. Pretty much like, say, the Juicy Couture sweat suit of meatloaves: comfortable but with a little sass.

Matt and I met up with James, Sam and Mara for a little get-together before James leaves again for London. Being a fellow lover of good food, I wanted to take him through the city’s foodscape and proudly show him how far we have gone. Initially I wanted to bring him to a Spanish restaurant, but sadly the place was closed for a function that evening. So, Matt suggested that for James’ last night in Manila we bring him somewhere laidback but with food that will surely not disappoint.

Since Sam and James were running late, Matt, Mara and I ordered an appetizer of Spinach and Mushroom Samosas to start. The filo pastry was light and crispy, the filling nicely cheesy. We also had a bottle of Estancia Pinot Grigio 2007 which I bought at Wine Depot. I really like this wine and regret not buying more when it was on sale. It seems to be quite popular here, as they always run out a couple of months after fresh stock arrives. I apologize not taking pictures of the samosas as Matt and I found Mara’s stories to be totally captivating.

James finally arrived, but Sam was still at a meeting. Famished, we decided to order anyway. I had the Pan Seared Lapu-lapu fillet with Boiled Potatoes, Vegetables and Truffle Paste Cream. Not really big on seafood, I ordered this thinking it would be a low-fat alternative to my usual red meat dishes. When it arrived, I was impressed with the size of the fillets and the generous portioning. The fish was perfectly-cooked- moist and flaky under its crispy thin crust. The boiled potatoes and vegetables come alive when swirled around in the creamy sauce, letting the bold flavor of truffle take center stage. It is currently my favorite fish dish. (Note: This is also what Sam ordered when she arrived.)

Matt, in the mood for something filling but at the same time not too high on calories, ordered their Half Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes. The meat of the chicken was very juicy and tender, even the dreaded white meat was full of flavor.

Mara ordered the Spaghetti Vongole, her idea of a “diet dish”. Since she was a bigger fan of the dish, I wanted to get her opinion before I tried it. She complained that, although quite tasty, they might have gone overboard with the flavors. Spaghetti Vongole, after all, is a very subtle pasta dish, mostly letting the acidity of the wine and the “sea” flavor of the clams shine through. After tasting it, I concurred that they were a bit too generous with the herbs.

Since he planned on waiting for Sam, James ordered himself a starter of Potatostrings-topped Crab Cakes. Having had this dish several times before, I know for a fact that it is good. For his main course, James opted for the Burger with Swiss Cheese and Mushrooms. He usually avoids eating fast food in London, so this was a bit of a treat for him, with Sam being a bigger fan of the stuff, he said. Quite the talented conversationalist, he polished off his plate with barely a pause during our light-hearted banter, in between chuckles as Matt tried to convince him to stay up until the wee hours to watch the Bayern Munich game.

With our meal, James wanted a particular shiraz to go with it, but I think they were out. He asked me to choose something and so I picked a 2007 Syrah from Domaine Coudoulet. He explained that he thinks the fruity characteristics of the syrah (or shiraz, same thing) will go well with the fish as well as the meatier dishes. I think he was right.

Completely stuffed, we begged off the desserts and decided to just continue drinking at a pub, since we noticed the fear in the eyes of our server as we discussed getting another bottle. While we sipped our beers and vodka bulls, we continued talking about what is going on with each other’s lives. It is nice to know that my friends and I can live completely separate lives and yet not lose that bond we have formed so long ago. Just like a bowl of arroz caldo- or a pint of ice cream, or a plate of spaghetti- knowing that I’ll always have my friends there is what truly warms my soul.

Apartment 1B
One Lafayette Square
Sedeno cor. Leviste Sts.
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Tel. no. (632)8434075


Noel said...

Spaghetti Vongole, after all, is a very subtle pasta dish, mostly letting the acidity of the wine and the “sea” flavor of the clams shine through.Don't mean to brag, but, aside from a close friend, I've never had a spaghetti vongole that can compare to the one I make.

Yabang! But it's true...


MrsLavendula said...

nice entry =) and i agree, arroz caldo, ice cream and good pasta are all truly comforting!

Chinkee said...

Noel- Hahaha! Hey, not everyone can cook, so its really a skill that you can brag about. Besides, I'm sure our friends don't mind if we brag as long as we keep them well-fed.:-)

Chinkee said...

Thanks Mrs. Lavendula! I really love eating and cooking pasta. i just wish I could eat it as often as when I was younger. Now, I have the burden of counting calories. Sad...