Thursday, June 27, 2019

A #BourdainDay Pop-Up Dinner at U Hotels with Egg Salad Sandwiches, Macau Pork Chop, Laksa, Choucroute Garnie and Ditching Dessert for Stinky Cheese

He may have been a complex and often misunderstood character in today's media age, but he was real. It's his authenticity that endeared him to so many, and there's no better way to honor a man by celebrating how he lived...

Anthony Bourdain's birthday, June 25, was celebrated around the world just the way he would have it, eating, drinking and traveling with close friends. Dubbed #BourdainDay, his storied life is once again celebrated in a lavish pop-up by Chefs Sharwin Tee and Karla Reyes hosted by U Hotels. And just like last year, it was all about celebrating his life more than his sudden passing, of good times shared with friends over food and overflowing drinks (for more on last year's Chef's Table Tribute to Anthony Bourdain, see my post, A Cook's Tour with No Reservations to Parts Unknown: Chef Decker Gokioco's Chef's Table Tribute to Anthony Bourdain at U Hotels).

"He taught us about food--but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown." Barack Obama

Culinary bad boy and the original rock star of the culinary world, a committed carnivore with a rebellious attitude and prolific storyteller, he was so many things to different people. But one thing's for sure. He showed us how to live, to keep moving and go further. At a special pop-up, Chefs Sharwin Tee and Karla Reyes collaborate for a curated five course menu at U Hotels retracing Anthony Bourdain's countless journeys to parts unknown with absolutely no reservations. And just like the man himself, the menu isn't what you'd expect from the usual formal dinner. Not at all. But that's exactly how Anthony Bourdain would do it. Unconventional, quirky and fun, it's about the authenticity of the moment and the experience.

Chef Sharwin Tee, popular TV host and author, brings his inventive style in recreating some of Anthony Bourdain's memorable dishes from episodes of Parts Unknown and No Reservations (for more on Chef Sharwin Tee, see my posts, Let's Cook Pinoy: Food Magazine's Second Food Tastings at Sarsa and Bacon Love at The Quirky Bacon), while Chef Karla Reyes of The Plaza adds her signature dishes to a sumptuous feast for Bourdain Day (for more on The Plaza and their famous ham, see my post, The Plaza: Celebrating Fifty Years of Food Excellence).

For Chefs Sharwin and Karla, Anthony Bourdain's extensive travels (he did travel to over 120 countries for his successful TV shows) and books helped in creating the special menu for Bourdain Day. Each course takes you to a place and time in Anthony Bourdain's travels, capturing that moment with flavors made even richer with the stories behind each dish. U Hotels was the perfect venue for the special Bourdain Day pop-up dinner, the first art hotel in the country located in the vibrant Poblacion neighborhood (for more on U Hotels, see my posts, Be Inspired at U Hotels Makati, The First Art Hotel in Poblacion and Meet Me For Lunch at U Hotels...). Proceeds from the special pop-up dinner will help fund the construction of schools and libraries in provincial areas, an advocacy of Chef Sharwin Tee. 

"At Lawson's, you can dig into their unnaturally fluffy, insanely delicious, incongruously addictive egg salad sandwiches. I love them. Layer after layer after layer of awesome. The egg and mayo combo that comprises the sandwich filling is indeed fluffy and light. There's a sweetness to it that's subtle and delicious."

While shooting the Okinawa episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain stumbled upon Lawson's Egg Salad Sandwich. The man had a knack for finding incredibly tasty bites in the common, often overlooked and underappreciated spots of any city. Like this Egg Salad Sandwich from Lawson. Indulgently creamy egg salad made with Japanese mayo in between pillow-soft white bread, one can almost experience how Anthony Bourdain felt with his first of many tasty bites. Chef Sharwin Tee masterfully recreates the sandwich that captivated Bourdain at the Japanese convenience store. There's always something tasty to be found somewhere, we just need to give it a second look. 

"The product of genius. And a distinctly Macanese creation which will live in history. Oozing fried pork chop between delicious bread, I know there's a fermented angry vegetarian out there somewhere watching this. Hello. C'mon, look at this. You know you want it. You can have it. No one will tell. Well, I think we learned something today. Pork. Good. Pork on sandwich? Better."

Chef Sharwin Tee's Macau-Style Pork Chop Sandwich is inspired by Bourdain's travels to Macao which led to a recipe in his cookbook, Appetites. Juicy pork chops are marinated in soy, rice wine, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, five-spice powder and sugar for at least one hour. The marinated chops are battered, breaded and deep-fried until golden brown for that light crispness. The chops are then placed on lightly toasted bread with pickled red onions. The sharpness of the pickled onions tempers the savory richness of the pork chop for balanced flavors. The flavors and textures of the sandwich is yet another curious and tasty find in Bourdain's travels.    

"Every time I come to Malaysia there's one thing I gotta have. Laksa. It's everything I love in one bowl. Wow, I almost said "yummy" there. What the f@#k is happening to me?"

Walking the always busy street of Jalan Pasar near Kek Lok Si Temple, Anthony Bourdain enjoys a bowl of spicy noodles for an episode of No Reservations. And like many of his shows, Bourdain makes you feel like you're there with him experiencing the flavors. Chef Sharwin's Asam Penang Laksa takes that exact same moment with soft yet chewy noodles, fresh herbs, succulent shrimps, deep and flavorful broth and that intense yet soothing heat from the hot chilis.

The spicy heat lingers, gaining intensity with each sip of the broth without overwhelming the palate. But you want more, just like Bourdain on that searing hot day in Penang. The addition of fresh cucumber cools you down while adding a subtle and refreshing sweetness. 

It's flavors like this that remind us there's so much more to experience and discover in the world. Anthony Bourdain took us there, totally immersing himself in the local flavors and culture of each country he visited.

"Light lunch."

Chef Karla Reyes draws inspiration from the very last Instagram post of Anthony Bourdain for the evening's fourth course, Choucroute Garnie. In typical Bourdain fashion, the Instagram post of the traditional Alsatian dish of cured pork, sausages, potatoes and wine braised sauerkraut was captioned "Light lunch." Chef Karla Reyes goes a step further using their signature The Plaza Ham, Corned Beef and crisp slabs of bacon laid on sauerkraut with potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts. It's a carnivore's trifecta served on a platter.

Chef Karla Reyes takes on the ironic humor of Bourdain's Instagram post's caption with her triple dose of ham, corned beef, and bacon for a sumptuous finale to an epic pop-up dinner.

The delicate briny notes of the corned beef are complemented by the subtle sharpness of the sauerkraut for balanced flavors, perfectly finished by the potatoes. Throughout the dinner, each course delivered real, honest and rich flavors. It's that authenticity, the very character and nature of the man, that's highlighted at the pop-up dinner. 

Anthony Bourdain always enjoyed a good beer. That evening, it was great to see an old friend again. The Endless Summer Wheat Ale and Procrastination Pale Ale by Pedro Brewcrafters completed that laid-back No Reservations vibe (for more on Pedro Brewcrafters, see my posts, The Other Side of Boracay Meets Rieseling Boracay Beach Resort, Meet The Drunken Lechon by Leonardo's Lechon and Pedro Brewcrafters..., And Then There Were Four: Meet The New Wandering Wonderer IPA from Pedro Brewcrafters... and There's A New Brew In Town. Meet Pedro...). Anthony Bourdain would have gotten along just fine with Pedro too.

"Pork. My favorite vegetable."

Anthony Bourdain finds the perfect spot serving pig's head in Madagascar while filming Parts Unknown, accompanied by a vegetarian. Clearly on a passive aggressive mode, Bourdain's vegetarian friend is assaulted by chopped pig's head, but regains his composure sticking to rice, beans and vegetables. Meanwhile, Bourdain gets his pork, as always. In a final homage to Anthony Bourdain, Chef Karla Reyes serves her crisp and crunchy Hamcharon, deep-fried pork cracklings from the carved trimmings of The Plaza Ham. Nothing is wasted, and the entire slab of pork used in their famous hams are fully utilized with little or no wastage. Crunchy and richly seasoned, Bourdain would probably grab a big piece and another beer from Pedro without hesitation. Here's to you, Anthony Bourdain.

"I just don't like dessert. I'm not good at pastries. I can't bake. That might explain my love/hate relationship with pastry chefs. If I had to lose one course for the rest of my life it would be dessert. Just leave me some good cheese. I want to linger over some good port wine and some really stinky, runny cheese. I also don't expect people to listen to me when I talk about desserts. I'm on record as saying I don't care about them. Why should you want a bundt cake from me?"

Naturally, desserts were ditched for gourmet cheeses from La Petite Fromagerie to cap the evening's special pop-up dinner, keeping in character with Anthony Bourdain.

La Petite Fromagerie offers a variety of cheese boards, styled cheese spreads, cheese buffet packages and gift items for that perfect wine and cheese party. Plus, the wide selection of add-ons from honey, dried fruits, nuts, crisp crostinis and crackers completes the package for any occasion. 

The well-curated selection of cheeses includes both imported gourmet cheeses and local artisan products. That night, La Petite Fromagerie featured Assiago (L) from Bacolod and Goat Milk Camambert from Davao (R) pairing well with a drizzle of honey and some dried fruits... 

...and of course, some "really stinky, runny cheese" like Epoisses (listed as one of the ten stinkiest cheeses in the world) and Le Rustique Camembert from France. But past the funky scents of the cheeses, one is drawn by the deep and rich notes with its smooth and velvety textures. That night, I fully agreed with Anthony Bourdain going for another serving of assorted cheeses without even missing dessert.

La Petite Fromagerie also served their signature spreads, the Truffle Cream Cheese Spread (L) and the TnT Cheese Spread (R) made even more flavorful with the addition of taba ng talangka or crab fat. It's an indulgent ending to a special dinner honoring the man who encouraged us to taste life in all its flavors.

"I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime associates, food, for me, has always been an adventure."

It's Bourdain Day. Head out and explore the vast world of diverse flavors, and free yourself from the restraints of simply doing the safe thing. Have another bowl of Laksa, with its fiery spice and unforgiving heat. Try something new even when its strange and unfamiliar. Veer away from the usual trail and create your own path. And live. That's how Anthony Bourdain would have done it. So pass me more of that fresh chili... 

U Hotels Makati is located at 5091 P. Burgos Street corner San Mateo Street, Poblacion, Makati City or call (02) 820-1000, (02) 820-1001, (02) 828-1002 and (63) 933-816-3333 for more information and reservations. You can also send an email to Check out their cool FB Page at for more updates.

For more information on La Petite Fromagerie, visit their website at

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