February 20, 2007

The big birthday bash

(YATS Chef Philip Golding gives me a cleaver to slice our delectable birthday cake. Photo by Dudubel)

I turned another year older last Saturday, and as expected, it didn't turn out to be a quiet walk towards impending senility.

The gang and I motored over to the Clark free port over the weekend and engaged in a few days of mayhem. It was actually a joint birthday celebration for a number of us, starting with Mago and Dudubel in January, and me in February, along with Buntis who celebrates her natal day on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, Buntis couldn't join us due to a previous appointment...achuus.

While the resort we stayed at was clearly a shadow of its former self, we still managed to enjoy ourselves mainly because of the really super nice people we met in several establishments, and the fun activities we had. Some played the slots at the casino, while the others stayed in the villa for some card games. It turned out to be a mighty profitable weekend for some of us hehe.

(The gang at play poses for a 'beauty shot'.)

We had a surprisingly inexpensive lunch at the YATS Wine Club co-owned by Chef Philip Golding who served as vintage beer for starters, some Chianti to go with our main course of salmon, steak and risotto, and port to close our meal. Advised earlier of the dietary restrictions of a few in the group, Golding served us some delectable sugar-free white chocolates, and thereafter gifted us with oh-so-heavenly sugar-free cheese cake. The cake was so good even the non-diabetics in the gang devoured it when there were three other sugar-rich cakes just waiting to be eaten. Ang kapal nyo ha!

Philip showed us his extensive collection of wines and two of his wine "cellars", which were actually not cellars but temperature-controlled rooms chockfull of absolutely gorgeous vinos from everywhere imaginable. I asked if I could live in his cellar where I would be very happy just drinking all the good stuff. The wines don't come cheap, of course, and he proudly showed off his P1-million wine, a bottle from Chateau Margaux. There was also another Chateau Margaux bottled in 1803 (P125,000), and I asked Philip what it would taste like considering it was really old and that it had probably been subjected to massive temperature fluctuations before it finally landed in his hands. He said he was dying to find out, and I of course had the temerity to rain on his parade by saying that he could have also ended up with a rather expensive bottle of vinegar! Hahaha!

(I'm not very partial to carbonara, but this version at C' is lusciously creamy with some earthy notes.)

Aside from the casinos and the indoor card games, some of us managed to do a bit of shopping and I for one, finally found Aquafresh Extreme Clean at Puregold, and rather inexpensive Carnation Hazelnut Coffee Creamer in larger containers unlike those sold here in Manila. Duty-free shopping of course is not what it used to be in Clark, and the goods are no longer as inexpensive and varied as before. Time was when I used to buy all my toilet paper at Clark (or Subic) because they were imported and more reasonably priced than our local brands, and what's more they were thick and absorbent. Okay, so I have a thing for plush toilet paper...shoot me.

But it wasn't just fun and games for us over the weekend as we were able to sit down and chat with Chicos Luciano, president of the Clark International Airport Corp. who gave us a rundown of the exciting new developments in the aviation field in Clark. For a government official, Luciano is one heck of a regular guy. He drove himself from Quezon City on a Sunday, without any bodyguards in tow, just to meet with us. He is so amiable and kind, constantly giving in to snickers at our antics, but he definitely knew his stuff. He rattled off facts and figures like they lived in his head and was generous with the information we needed for our slew of Clark stories. If all government officials were like Mr. Luciano, we would have one heck of a super efficient bureaucracy.

(Oooh, panizza! Yum!)

Luciano thereafter treated us to an ultra-sumptuous meal at the "C" Italian restaurant on Fields Ave., said to be a favorite of my favorite presidentita GMA, Imee Marcos, Luli Arroyo, Sharon Cuneta, and a few other celebrities, as well as CEO expats now living in Clark. Some of its fans actually drive to Clark (now a very fast one hour drive on the repaved NCLEX) from Manila just to have a meal there.

Its best seller is the panizza, the creation of its Swiss-born "Chef Patron" Chris Locher, which is really a super-thin crust pizza sliced diagonally, and which you can top with alfalfa sprouts and arugula. Chris tells us that a few times in a month, when the presidentita has her "cravings", PSG guards would turn up at "C" to take out panizza for the madam. Our meal last Sunday consisted of deliciously creamy risotto, very tender slices of angus beef, a different take on Pasta Amatriciana, and yummy yummy flavors of gelato. The strawberry and lemon-mandarin gelatos are really to die for.

Too bad that Chef Locher doesn't want to put up a branch in Manila. He tells me that while he has been with the Philippines for quite awhile, he absolutely abhors Manila. So grab your cars people and take a trip down to Clark soon if you want to have a taste of Chef Locher's brilliant dishes, designed to please every foodie bone in your body.

Props goes to publicist Mike Marasigan (my ex-boss at BusinessWorld, imagine that!) who was able to facilitate the great getaway, along with Clark Development Corp. tourism officer, the ever cheerful Noemi Garcia. Thanks guys! We really had a blast!


Ruby Gan said...

Hello Stella! Belated happy birthday!

Big kiss!

Stella Arnaldo said...

Thanks Ruby!