Sunday, February 24, 2008

Our Own Private Chef

I first heard about Chef Maj Lazatin from Miguel, who shot her for Yummy. He was raving about her risotto--I'm a sucker for good Italian food plus I figured H would appreciate having a private chef prepare a meal for us, so I decided to hire her for our post-V Day date.

Chef Maj is still pretty young, probably about H's age. She studied at the Apicius Cooking School in Florence for about a year--in other words, she got to live the life I can only dream of! It was a bit tough trying to contact her at first, but I finally got to speak with her, and she agreed to do a dinner for two.

The first menu she sent me was all seafood--H is allergic to shrimp and crab and some fish, so I asked if we could just stick to the stuff she prepared for the mag. An allergy attack would've totally killed the romance! After some logistical problems (plan A: the chef's house, but that didn't work out; plan B: the rooftop of our condo, but it was too windy; plan C: Marie's dining room; but we eventually ended up with plan D: a complete stranger's house! It was owned by one of the chef's partners, whom I met just that day! Can you say "dyahe"? But she insisted, so...), we finally settled on a place and feasted on...

Zuppa di Zucca - Pureed pumpkin soup with croutons and pancetta with a drizzle of truffle oil. I loved, loved, loved this soup! Truffle oil really makes anything taste extra special--I am still dreaming about that pasta that we had at Il Pirata. I just couldn't get enough of this velvety soup. At my house, our helper always gives H more soup than she gives me, and I always jokingly complain about it. That night, H complained that it looked like I got more than he did. "It's payback!" I laughed as I chowed down on another delightful spoonful.
Insalata with Two Kinds of Mushroom - Mixed greens topped with sauteed Portabello and button mushrooms dressed with blueberry vinaigrette. The best part about this salad was the crispy parmesan hiding under the mixed greens. I was thankful there wasn't any arugula in there, but I still couldn't finish my greens. H gamely polished 'em off for me.

Prima Piatti: Risotto con Vino Rosso, Pera, Gorgonzola e' Manzo - Arborio risotto with gorgonzola cheese and pear cooked in red wine and serve with grilled beef tenderloin. Our beef was a bit overdone--we asked for medium, but it seemed almost well done to us. But the risotto--ahh, the risotto! The last risotto we had before Chef Maj's was at a resto in Tagaytay, which H proclaimed was "the most expensive lugaw ever"! This version could not be mistaken for lugaw--H appreciates anything cooked in wine, and there was a great interplay of textures as I heaped a spoonful into my mouth--the risotto contrasting nicely with the pear bits. The taste of the gorgonzola echoed all the way into my nose! Sounds strange, but I really appreciated the intense flavor of the cheese.

Buko Sorbet - Our menu said "lemon sorbet," but instead we got one with strips of buko. A great palate cleanser, to prepare us for our second main course.

Secondi Piatti: Pesce con Mandorle e' Prezzemolo - Pan-seared cobbler fillet with toasted almonds and parsely, served with fried zucchini flower. At this point, H and I were bursting at the seams. We wanted to split one dish (true enough, we ended up eating just half, and the fish fillet wasn't even that big). I have this habit of sniffing food (I must be committing some dining faux pas...), and I got a whiff of a strongly nutty scent. As I bit into the fish, the taste of almonds just exploded in my mouth. The zucchini flower was nice and crispy. Both the fish and the zucchini flower were a bit oily, but delicious nonetheless. If it were the only course we had that night, I would've polished it off.

Dolci: Panna Cotta con Fragola - Double-cooked cream with pureed strawberries. While my all-time favorite panna cotta remains to be the one Gourmet's whipped up for a shoot two years ago, Chef Maj's was also pretty good. Creamy things tend to be nakakasawa, but this surprisingly wasn't. Perhaps it was due to the somewhat tangy flavor of the pureed strawberries--rather than placing sliced strawberries on top of the panna cotta, Chef Maj poured a smooth layer of the pureed fruit over the cream.
All in all, a wonderful experience! The chef was so pleasant, plus she even threw in some red wine for free (H had three glasses; I stopped at one because allergic me started getting rashes. Tsk tsk). She left me with the fantasy of hiring a full-time private chef in the future. Of course, if that happens, I'll also need to hire a full-time personal trainer!

Contact Chef Maj Lazatin through mobile 0917-8233101 or landline (02) 810-3101

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