Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Carabao Cheese Themed Dinner at Cafe Ysabel

An evening of cheese and wine, excellent food and great company...

Cafe Ysabel and La Chaine des Rotisseurs recently hosted an elegant Carabao Cheese Themed Dinner with artisan cheeses from Latteria d' Ischia last July 21, 2015. And it was great to be back at Cafe Ysabel...

The special dinner was held at Cafe Ysabel's cellar, with its extensive collection of wine. For over three decades, Cafe Ysabel has been a culinary landmark known for its classic European, Spanish, Italian, and Filipino cuisine, driven by celebrated chef Gene Gonzalez. Located in an elegant and stately ancestral home, Cafe Ysabel continues its tradition of culinary excellence and service. And it's the perfect place for a special dinner by Le Chaine des Rotisseurs...

Before dinner, Chef Gene Gonzalez showed me his impressive collection of wine from all over the world in Cafe Ysabel's cellar. And the amazing stories behind each bottle in Chef Gene's collection are as equally impressive as the cellar.

The evening's premium cheeses were provided by Latteria d' Ischia, featuring a selection of artisan cheeses made from local carabao's milk. The impressive selection of local artisan cheeses included both soft and hard cheeses, with Meglio Paese, Appia Vecchia, Buffalino Paprika, Cacio Cavallo, and Buffalino. All world-class cheeses from the local water buffalo.

That evening, our wines included the Rustenberg Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2011 from South Africa (L) and the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from California (R).

As more guests arrived, more bottles of wine were opened adding to the evening's festive and celebratory mood. Chef Gene Gonzalez then fired up the brick oven, also located at Cafe Ysabel's cellar...   

Chef Gene Gonzalez prepared the evening's appetizers, rustic pizzas, baked in Cafe Ysabel's brick wood-fired oven, and in just minutes, the first batch of pizzas were served.

Fresh from the wood-burning oven, Chef Gene Gonzalez served his crisp Quattro Formaggi (L) and Margarita with Smoked Scamorza (R). There's nothing quite like the clean and sharp flavors of freshly baked pizza from a wood-fired oven, with its thin and perfectly crisp crust. 

Dinner begins with the Side Dish of Mascarpone & Clotted Cream from Latteria d' Ischia served with freshly baked, rustic bread from Cafe Ysabel. The creamy, soft cheeses paired well with Cafe Ysabel's rustic bread, delivering rich yet delicate flavors.

Chef Gino Gonzalez (L) then fired up the kitchen to prepare the evening's dinner courses, as Chef Gene Gonzalez (R) formally welcomed guests to the special dinner, and introduced the first course for the evening...

The Burrata Salad, served with freshly baked bread and butter, a simple yet flavorful dish with creamy mozzarella on fresh heirloom tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and topped with basil and crisp micro greens. The soft, velvety smooth texture of the burrata just melts in your mouth releasing a burst of rich buttery notes with just a whisper of saltiness.

The richness of the burrata is tempered by the sharp tartness of the fresh tomatoes for balanced and contrasting flavors. The quality of the cheese by Latteria d' Ischia is impressive, perfectly executed at Cafe Ysabel.

Next, Cafe Ysabel's hearty and comforting Minestrone was served, with onions, celery, carrots, pasta, and bits of tender beef in a rich tomato-based stock. The fresh vegetables add a subtle layer of sweetness to the vibrant flavors of the broth, and adding just a dab of mascarpone adds even more richness to round out the flavors.

For the main course, Cafe Ysabel served the elegantly plated Gratinated Lamb Fillet with Marrone di Veneto and Caramelized Red Wine Sauce. The fork-tender lamb fillet delivered rich and buttery notes without the overpowering gamey hints, enhanced by the red wine sauce.

It's classic dishes like this that Cafe Ysabel does so well, and it was great to be back and get reacquainted with the Cafe Ysabel's elegant cuisine.

The special dinner was capped with Cafe Ysabel's rich and indulgent Mascarpone Frozen Tiramisu, paired with the DisznokoTokajiAszu 5 Puttonyos 2005 from Hungary. The contrasting textures of the delicately layered dessert, with its soft and chewy base and the melt-in-your-mouth mascarpone, just keeps you going for another bite. And another.  After dessert, Latteria d' Ischia offered even more cheeses, served with fruits and nuts and more wine. Wine and cheese, great food and great company...great to be back at Cafe Ysabel.

Cafe Ysabel is located at 455 P. Guevarra Street, San Juan City, or call 726-9326 for reservations and inquiries.

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