Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Muse

Sidetracked by wedding preparations, and- after the wedding- settling into my new life as Mrs. Matt, my blog remained motionless after almost two months. Tired of sitting in front of a blank page on my laptop, I desperately sought inspiration in all possible places.

Pompous ass that I am, I check my site for rousing material that could get my juices flowing. After being inert for so long, my own words that so naturally flowed out of me in the past seemed so profound and scholarly (did I not mention I was a pompous ass?) to me that I almost envied my pre-marital self. I looked at food pictures of dinners that were promised immortality but were shelved because of the hectic pace during the past months. Photoshopped images of fried pigeon and paella stare back at me, but the memories of those dishes have gone stale in my mind’s palate.

So I figured it was time to start eating again. And I mean EATING, like I mean it. Dragging my new husband in tow, we make the rounds of our favorite food haunts, savoring the flavors and aromas that we deprived ourselves of a month before the wedding. After our combined weight loss equaling a small toddler, we thought we deserved to indulge a bit. Or, make that A LOT.

After a particularly trying week, Matt offered to take me out to dinner. Searching for emotional healing, I take full advantage of his offer and think of a place where I can seek comfort in good food and cozy surroundings. In my world, no other food heals like pasta, and in this side of the globe, nobody does it better than Margarita Fores. So, one rainy evening, we head on over to Pepato.

Creatures of habit, we grab the table that we occupied the first time we were there. Tempted to order the Spaghettini Pepato Flambe a second time around, I quickly scan the rest of the page for other prospects. Then, like the quirky girl in class, it stood out like a sore thumb: Pappardelle, Onion Cream, Salted Egg. In a finer print, it states that it also includes asparagus and truffle oil. In my mind, it was a train wreck of a dish. It could not possibly be good, with so much going on and thinking that the strong onion would overpower all other aromas. But, like a train wreck, I just could not ignore it.

I had to try it.

To make room for the other dishes we plan to share, we decided to split an order of the pasta dish as well. Matt- normally safe and conservative with his food choices- was surprisingly supportive of my bold choice. After we quickly finished our appetizer of Roasted Bone Marrow, I spied our pasta being brought out of the kitchen.

Served in rectangular plates, I stretch my neck as high as I could to catch a glimpse of the alluring dish. Before it even reaches my line of vision, the earthy aroma of truffle wafts into my nostrils as the waiter places his tray down two meters away from us.

Visually, it is as quirky as its composition. Strips of flat pasta are spread out over the plate, covered in a smooth cream sauce. Small pieces of chopped asparagus are evenly distributed throughout, along with tiny bits of the dreaded salted egg yolk. “Are those nuts?”, Matt asked. I tell him what they are and- despite his earlier display of courage- I see him cringe.

I slice a small piece of pasta, making sure I got every component in my first bite. As I savor the flavors in my mouth, I immediately get it.

This dish is a balancing act in aroma and texture. Despite a pairing of two very strong and dominant flavors, the truffle and onion do not try to outdo each other. While the former comes at you on the approach, the onion creeps up at you from the back of your throat, emanating from your mouth. Hence, they do not clash, they do not overlap. The sauce is smooth and creamy, but not rich. The bite from the crisp asparagus provides contrast to the cream and delicate pasta. The biggest surprise of all comes from the most controversial ingredient. The pieces of salted egg yolk provide more of a textural element rather than flavor. I enjoyed how its fine-graininess adds a different dimension to what would have been just another cream sauce.

With that juggernaut of a pasta course, what could have been a relatively good main course of beef fillets, Portobello mushroom and baby potatoes paled by comparison. Even as we chewed on the perfectly-rare slices of tenderloin, Matt and I were still talking about how scrumptious the pasta was.

And now, as I tap away on my laptop after the longest time, I once again crave for a taste of that Pappardelle pasta. Maybe the second time around would not be as sweet or inspiring, since the appeal of the unknown is no longer there. But what was once fascinating is now comforting, promising a meal that is both a feast for the senses and warms the heart.

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Miguel said...

Glad to know you are back on track...eating and blogging again...Congrats again and let's organize a dinner soon with Noel , etc...

Chinkee said...

HI Miguel! Yup, so nice to be writing again... and eating like maniac! Sige let's organize something. Keep me posted...:-)

Noel said...

Sure, I'm game, but Mig is off to Australia next week for I have no idea how long. Then back in Europe sometime thereafter I believe. Alam mo naman these jet-setters, they have to squeeze us ordinary folk into their tight, multi-time zone schedules.

Good to see you re-activating your blog with a new post, Chinkee....unlike some people *ehem!* (...muriendo de risa...)


Chinkee said...

Hi Noel! Yeah nga eh, so hard to plan around these jet-setters' schedules. Oh well, let's just hope he has time for us in the near future. Hay...

Miguel said...

ha ha..well I wish I was jet setting...but unfortunately this is work (of course mixed with a little pleasure haha).

Yes I admit..have not updated in a while...have some left from various restaurants but are not worth posting so I'd rather not..hehe