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A famous chef is opening a restaurant in Cebu, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Cebu’s dining scene just keeps getting better and better! Zee Lifestyle gets an exclusive preview of Ñ, a brand new dining concept spearheaded by a celebrated Spanish chef who runs one of the 50 best restaurants in Asia.

VASK Tapas Room's Chef Luis "Chele" Gonzales

VASK Tapas Room’s Chef Luis “Chele” Gonzales

Chele Gonzalez is no stranger to the Zee Lifestyle crowd.

Last year, the talented Spaniard was the guest chef at the Bohol Break, the kick-off festivities for this publication’s 20th year anniversary. While the highlight of that event was a fashion show featuring the latest collections of Jun Escario and Mia Arcenas, the food was equally memorable, with people singing praises about the Wagyu ribs and the scallops with black ink risotto.

When we heard that Chef Chele was working with Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan to offer a unique dining experience in Cebu, we couldn’t resist hopping on a plane for an exclusive preview. The patience in dealing with a three-hour delayed flight and Manila traffic paid off when we finally stepped into the cool industrial-chic interiors of VASK Tapas Room in BGC.

Decked in his chef whites, Chef Chele was all smiles and waved off our profuse apologies for our tardiness. “The Spanish eat late!” he exclaims, bidding us to settle in our seats. Assuming correctly that we were starving, Chef Chele wastes no time in serving us our individual plated amuse bouche alongside a glass of champagne. He gestures a preferred eating order—Crispy Oysters with Spicy Paprika Mayonnaise and Cilantro first, followed by the Jamon and Parmesan Mousse Pinxto, and ending with the Croqueta de Txipiron, a black ink squid Spanish croqueta. Those three small bites alone signaled that we were definitely in for an extraordinary dinner.

VASK Tapas Room in BGC

VASK Tapas Room in BGC

It’s hard to imagine anything topping those appetizers, but we were quickly proven wrong with the arrival of the Wagyu Carpaccio with Parmesan Ice Cream and Pine Nuts, which was deemed an instant favorite among the Cebu guests. The thin slices of Wagyu beautifully offset the burst of flavor from the ice cream and the texture of the nuts. Next came a series of other appetizers, each of them impressive enough to make everyone look forward to Chef Chele’s new dining concept in Cebu.

Wagyu Carpaccio with Parmesan Ice Cream and Pine Nuts

Wagyu Carpaccio with Parmesan Ice Cream and Pine Nuts

“It’s going to be part of Crimson’s new expansion,” shares Crimson Resort & Spa’s PR & Marcom Manager Mia Mae Sy over servings of Vieras Gratinadas and Pulpo a la Gallega, the latter of which being a grilled and smoked octopus with a potato emulsion and crispy paprika that everyone will say was their favorite dish at the end of the evening. For the past few years, the resort has been undergoing extensive renovations that sees the addition of a new swimming pool and a new Crimzone (the current kid activity center will be converted into a café). Chef Chele’s new restaurant, to be called Ñ, will replace Tempo. 

With a culinary degree from Arxanda, Bilbao and an extensive career working in some of the world’s most respected restaurants, it’s easy to see how Chef Chele quickly propelled VASK Tapas Room into a cool 39th ranking among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016. It takes serious skill to create authentic Spanish cuisine with a modern twist, and yet he does so quite impressively that Cebu should definitely be excited he’s choosing the Queen City as his next home. 

Hayde Quiñanola of Cebu Daily News, Patty Taboada of Zee Lifestyle and Sun.Star Cebu's Luis III Quibranza (rightmost) with Crimson Hotel Filinvest City's Corporate PR and MarCom Manager Mawi de Ocampo, VASK Tapas Bar's Patricia Kirkpatrick, and Crimson Mactan's PR and MarCom Manager Mia Mae Sy

Hayde Quiñanola of Cebu Daily News, Patty Taboada of Zee Lifestyle and Sun.Star Cebu’s Luis III Quibranza (rightmost) with Chroma’s Corporate PR and MarCom Manager Mawi de Ocampo, VASK Tapas Bar’s Patricia Kirkpatrick, and Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan’s PR and MarCom Manager Mia Mae Sy

Paired with a glass of chilled white wine, the ‘Lechon’ Tacos were served. Tender Carnitas were mixed with Mango Salsa Jalapeño Frijoles Mousse and Sour Cream, and while it was good as it is, we’re interested to see his take on it with Cebu lechon—a suggestion Chef Chele took with enthusiasm. The 62’C Organic Egg, Porcini Mash, Foie Gras, Truffle and Crispy Jamon Iberico was also a hit among the guests. Breaking the poached egg and having the yolk mixed with the red wine sauce is a unique sensory experience, with its interesting flavors and textures.

“You aren’t even at the main courses yet!” Chef Chele laughs amid our proclamations that we were getting full. This was met with almost-comical flabbergasted stares, prompting the man of the hour to reassure us that we only had a few more dishes to go, and most of them were for sharing. Red wine was poured to go with our Rabo al Vino Tinto, which was a slow-cooked oxtail with red wine and potatoes. We also had the Pescado con Refrito de Ajos, grilled catch-of-the-day with garlic, sherry vinegar and potato; and the Foie and Porcini Risotto. Despite our initial claims, we couldn’t help but go back for seconds anyway—the oxtail was amazingly tender, and the risotto heavenly. 

Rabo al Vino Tinto: Slow-cooked oxtail with red wine and potatoes

Rabo al Vino Tinto: Slow-cooked oxtail with red wine and potatoes

Considering how much we’ve had to eat, it’s amazing that we could even still make room for dessert. As it is, we couldn’t resist a helping of Torrija, brioche dipped in milk with Anise ice cream. You’d think that at this point we’d be overwhelmed with all the flavors, but the delicate sweetness of that dessert was just what we needed to end the night. 

Vieras Gratinadas: Baked scallops with Bechamel sauce and cheese

Vieras Gratinadas: Baked scallops with Bechamel sauce and cheese

The dining scene in Cebu has seen so much development in the recent years. Existing establishments have reinvented themselves, while new concepts have been introduced—all to adapt to a more sophisticated palate. Ñ is set to be a dazzling addition to the scene, and with everything we’ve tasted so far (all dishes mentioned above will be offered in Cebu), all we can say is it’s going to be a game changer.

Ñ will open at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan later this year.

CRIMSON RESORT & SPA MACTAN
Seascapes Resort Town, Mactan Island
website | Facebook

VASK TAPAS BAR
5F Clipp Center, 11th Avenue,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Manila
website | Facebook

Contributed photos.

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The Uncommon Traditions that Mexicans and Filipinos share when celebrating the Day of the Dead.

Dia de los Muertos

By Allain Dumon Fonte

The 2nd of November is All Soul’s Day, a holiday that is very important to many Filipinos to remember our loved ones who passed on. This is also widely celebrated in Mexico as “Dia De los Muertos” or in English, “The Day of the Dead”. And Mexicans celebrate the 2nd of November grander than they celebrate Christmas. Well, you can witness it from the Disney movie, “Coco”.

As All Soul’s Day or Dia de los Muertos is about to end, here are some interesting traditions and superstitions that Filipinos and Mexicans share:

1. IT IS NOT ON THE 31st OF OCTOBER

Dia de los Muertos or All Soul’s Day is not practiced on October 31st or on the Hallow’s Eve as many other western cultures practice; but we celebrate it on the 2nd of November. We celebrate November 1st as All Saint’s Day or the Day of the Holy, while in Mexico they call it Dia de los Innocentes or Dia de los Angelitos to commemorate the children who died too early in life.

2. THE RITUAL

Both in Mexico and in the Philippines, we visit the grave of our loved ones and we clean it well. This is a ritual to honour their resting places and to let them know that they are never forgotten.

3. FLOWERS INVITE SPIRITS

In Mexico, they believe that the scent of flowers attract spirits. So the flower offerings are invitation to their dead loved ones to visit the living families. While in the Philippines, we believe that flowers offered to the dead exalt the souls and somehow fill in the sadness that we feel when missing our dead loved ones.

Most of the time, Filipinos choose all-white flowers to offer because white is the absence of colour, which means the absence of Joy and happiness. White also symbolises purity of soul which we hope our dead loved ones will attain as they journey to heaven. While in Mexico, they have the yellow Mexican marigolds as the official flowers of the dead that will guide them in their journey to the afterlife.

4. THE LEGEND OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES

Both cultures believe that monarch butterflies are dead loved ones who visit us and show their appreciation that we have not forgotten them. A presence of monarch butterflies also means that our dead loved ones are always there guiding us and looking after us.

5. A PICNIC IN THE GRAVEYARD

Spending a night at the graveyard and picnicking with the rest of the family may sound very creepy to many; but to both Filipino and Mexican cultures, picnicking and spending a night at the cemetery is a must to show our love to our dearly departed. It is the only time in the year that families gather and tell stories of the dead loved ones and how colourful or how great their lives were.

6. FOOD FOR THE DEAD

In Mexico, they have what they call “ofrendas” or an altar where the pictures of their dead loved ones are displayed and offered with flowers, candles, and their favourite food. Very similar to the Filipino culture of cooking the favourite food of our dead loved ones and everyone in the family enjoys the food for dinner.

My family tradition involves me driving all the way to Colon street and buy that famous Snow Sheen’s “pancit canton”. This is my granddad’s favourite snack. Sadly, the old Visayan Restaurant is no longer there. My late uncle and my late grandpa love their sweet ad and sour fish. We also set up an “ofrenda” on their graveyard and eat their favourite food while picnicking in the cemetery. We do not spend a night in the cemetery; but while we are picnicking there, we usually play the songs of Pilita Corrales and Susan Fuentes that my late grandpa used to listen every afternoon while enjoying his coffee, pan de sal, and pancit canton.

What about your family traditions? Share your thoughts by commenting to this article.

MODEL: Michael Joseph Mortola Enriquez & Alexis Wingfield
PHOTOGRAPHER: Gianne Paolo Anciano
HMUA/DESIGNER: Hazel Ocaba
STYLING: GPA Lifestyle + Clothing

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Culture

Catch Ted Lasso the Emmy Award Winning Comedy Series on Apple TV+

Catch Ted Lasso the Emmy Award Winning Comedy Series on Apple TV+

 

Rating: *****/ *****

The multi award–winning comedy series airing on Apple TV+ is one of my favorite shows.  Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis is about a fun good-natured American football coached hired by a British soccer club (AFC Richmond in London) to become their new coach.  In spite of the fact that Ted has no experience or knowledge about British football/soccer, his positive demeanor and charm helps him overcome the animosity of the team’s players, staff and fans.  Eventually Ted wins over the team and the locals as they fight for position in the English Premier League.

The show won the 2021 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and 7 Emmy Awards in its 2 seasons and Season 3 is just around the corner.  You can catch Seasons 1 & 2 of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+

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Culture

PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later

Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202

AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.

We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.

We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.

Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.

 

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