Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Summer in Provençe" at Café Provençal

A few nights back I cooked some chicken in red wine and Herbes de Provençe for dinner. A somewhat overly hearty meal for such a balmy night, but we enjoyed it. What would've been great is a glass of cold, cold rosé. It got me thinking back to just such a glass I enjoyed a few weeks ago at Cafe Provençal.

Café Provençal hosted a bloggers' pizza & wine event to promote their "Summer in Provençe" theme which will run all summer long. One of our very gracious hosts, Kathleen Chua, explained that during summer in Provençe people will often sit and talk with friends while sipping rosé wines, an experience they hope to introduce here in the Philippines. Most Filipinos are only aware of red and white wine, and are not very familiar of rosés which are fruity and light and go well with pizza. The folks at Café Provençal hope to change all that, and hope that these wines will catch on in the Philippines.

For their summer theme house chef Jacq Tan took the Neapolitana Pizza (thin crust, tomato sauce, mozarella, drizzling of olive oil) and created four variations which we were able to sample. We started with the Roasted Garlic Pizza (cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, chilli flakes), a rustic, very fresh tasting number. I asked our hosts whether their ingredients are locally sourced, and Bryan Chua said yes, explaining that they are aiming for freshness of ingredients instead of importing ingredients that will sit in an airplane somewhere for days. It's a good move, and it was evident in the flavor of the pizzas.

Next up was the Asparagus Pizza (asparagus, sundried tomato, ricotta). Those who know me best will tell you I won't hesitate to put weird stuff on my pizza, and asparagus isn't anywhere near weird, but it did surprise some of my dinner companions. More surprises with the Tarragon Chicken Pizza (strips of chicken, fresh tarragon leaves, and ricotta). This was Steph's favorite. What was a pleasant surprise to me was the use of dark chicken meat with the skin on to add a little crunch. The age-old pairing of chicken and tarragon worked really well here.

My compliments for the pizza crust! My pizza test is whether the crust is good without any toppings, and this did not disappoint. No wood-fired oven here obviously, but still very good. A nice touch accompanying the pizzas were the small plates of fresh basil leaves, dried chilli flakes, and sea salt (nope, not fleur de sel...that might be asking for far too much hehe).

The fourth pizza was the Spicy Chorizo (chorizo, red onions, bell pepper) which I felt was the weakest link not because it wasn't good, but because the three other flavors (in my opinion) far outstripped it. Maybe it would have stood out better paired with the Torres Viña Esmeralda that I saw on the wine shelves instead of the rosé that we were having.

Speaking of the wine, we were served ALEXIS Syrah Grenache Rosé in chilled glasses (another nice touch...bravo!) and 2007 Chateau de Roquefort CORAIL Cotes de Provence. Very good pairings with the pizza. The Syrah-Grenache was a little bit headier than the second wine but I found that my palate enjoyed it more.

Other stuff we enjoyed that night were "Pasta Provençal," their version of pasta puttanesca, and "Burgundy Beef", their own version of Beef Bourguignon, or beef braised in red wine. The beef was falling-off-the-bone tender. The sauce was very nicely done, and wasn't even the tiniest bit greasy despite being very rich. The side serving of garlic mashed potatoes (a little chunky, just the way I like them!) helped cut into the richness, as did the successive glasses of wine hehe.

For dessert we were served beignets with chocolate sauce, and a dollop of crème fraîche. Nice and simple. These were very good, the lightest beignets I had ever enjoyed.

All in all a very good meal enjoyed the Provençal way: with some old friends and a lot of new ones, with good wine and conversation. Kudos to Café Provençal for the nice touches and their efforts to create an authentic Provençal summer experience.

"Summer in Provençe" will run all summer long. You still have this weekend to catch the pizza & wine. Next month they will be offering different pastas, and I am definitely going back for that!

Thanks to the folks at Café Provençal and to Paul Pajo for organizing the event.

These photos by Azrael Coladilla

View all my photos here.

Café Provençal
2nd Level, Shangri-la Plaza Mall
Telephone: (63 2) 631-8046, (63 917) 535-6165



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1:06 AM  
Anonymous Yasmin (Almond & The Hazelnut) said...

Hi JB!

What a shame I wasn't able to attend myself - your descriptions have whet my appetite and Cafe Provencal sounds really nice - rustic, simple but full of flavour. Thank you again for a delicious lunch, I hope to enjoy more of your meals in the future...

4:04 AM  

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