About Chef Danny

Danny de la Cuesta’s creative and artistic career spans three decades of prolific output in design, training and consultancy. He graduated in the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication majoring in Broadcast Communications. He pursued his Second degree in Business Management with concentration in Fashion Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York University, USA. He has been designing fashion since the late 70’s, with rich local and international exposures through retail, export and fashion shows. In 1994, he opted to broaden his horizon by extending his artistic calling by means of embarking into a career in Culinary Design. He became the first National Champion of the San Miguel Culinary Cookfest which paved him to pursue a Diploma in Culinary Arts at the Le Cordon Bleu Escole di Cuisine, London Campus, England under the tutelage of Chef Michel Boucheret. He was the past Editor in Chief of Cook Magazine and an active member of The Creative Media Professionals Guild of the Asia and the Pacific.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Work with a Good Caterer

 Throwing a dinner party is truly one of life’s most delightful luxuries to enjoy. Whether it is a romantic fare on an apartment table for two or a grand outlay in a sprawling garden for two hundred, there is something special about the combination of delicious food, friendly dinner companions, and a beautifully set table. Fortunately, everyone can enjoy this luxury. Do not be intimidated by the thought of throwing a dinner party. With a little planning and preparation, you can create a meal that will impress your guests and make you an enviable host.
When planning a party a well balanced ingredient for a successful night of entertaining are the three aspects: food, beverage and how they are served. If you get these three things right, you are on the right road to a happy crowd. Sounds simple right? Well, it’s not quite that straightforward so I thought I’d jot down a few tips for choosing the right service provider, how to make that relationship work and enjoy doing business with him for decades. Although you may have gotten a caterer’s name from your most trusted friend, still doesn’t guarantee successful working relationship. Catering in private homes is a highly personal service consisting of much more than the exchange of food and money. Over the years, I’ve learned to determine during the first few minutes meeting with a new caterer whether we’ll be able to gel together by using the same criteria I do in evaluating any relationship: common goals and mutual attraction. I suggest you do the same. Hire someone who shares your views about hosting, someone you like, and then follow these guidelines:
Assess Your Needs.

Home entertaining is highly individualistic and any caterer worth keeping knows how to make room for your personal touches which is important. The first stage is to ponder with a pen and paper in hand. Jot down ideas as they come to you. Know what party format you want. Is this a cocktail party, a business meeting, a wedding, a homecoming affair or something just for fun? It’s important to pair the food served with the format of the event.

What date will you select?
How many people do you want to invite?
How many people can your table accommodate?

Brainstorm and get you ideas and thoughts out on paper. Once you have
 done that, look at what you have written and create a summary of your event that requires accommodations for the meal and setting. The point of brainstorming and making a summary is to focus and organize your thoughts. 

For example, during a cocktail party it’s important to servebite-sized appetizers that can easily be popped in to one’s mouth with one hand while the other hand is holding a glass of drink. It’s surprising how many times I still find myself at an event needing to put down a glass of martini in order to eat a large portioned messy appetizer – it’s awkward but can easily be avoided. Similar rules apply for other types of events and obviously sit down dinners are a whole other set of rules.
Visit venue of your chosen caterer.
Recall the catering services that you've attended in the last few months. Did any of their services standout or served amazing food? Ask your friends of top-notch services they have used. If you're using a florist for your event, they will probably be happy to help.
Consider hiring a chef to your party. Two of my favorite Chefs to work with when I do events are Gaita Fores of Cibo or Katrina khun of Culliere (pronounced kuyer.) They understand proper quantities, service standards and their preparation can make all the difference. They got what it takes to make hosting a lot easier and produce food which is totally a work of art. I visit their offices; check the esthetic considerations that include preferred colors, the level of formality and the general style.  I also want to see the caterer’s tableware, so I can design the menu with the plate size and the pattern in mind. Their choices of
materials reflect their taste and if you think it matches yours, sign up!
Determine your timelines. Create your timelines that details the services caterer will provide from preparation to clean-up. Draw up a contract; if you don't like the basic contract that you're handed, insist on your changes that will ensure that you're accommodated and protected.
Your contract should specify your exact name, the location, date, time and duration of your party, the number of guests, price per plate and overall price. Details, such as when the food will be served and how long the bar will be open should be stipulated in the agreement.

This is the time to discuss billing procedures and other money matters. Each catering resource has a different formula of reservation fees, deposits and full payment of balance. Cut clear on the deposit amount and what circumstances necessitate a partial or full refund. If you cancel, will the caterer return your money? What happens if they cancel on you? If everything is clear and amenable to both of you, sign the contract and pay your deposit.
Expect your caterer to make ocular inspections. It is essential that a caterer meet with a new client in the venue where party takes place before the event. For me, the initial visit addresses practical concerns- the kitchen size, layout and the limitations in cooking and the possibility of using other equipments like grillers or barbeque pits.

     For clients, the meeting should answer any questions all about a caterer’s service.    Because different clients require different levels of services, a caterer’s challenge is  how to accommodate them individually. Some caterer’s like to do everything from polishing silver to arranging flowers; in other homes host assigns ambiance to a stylist who also provides the centerpieces to setting the place cards.Years ago, one of my regular clients decided to give a party in his new townhouse before its renovation was complete. Though he had a wonderful sense of style, he was completely clueless about kitchens. His stainless sink was installed but water supply had not yet been connected. Your situation may not be as dramatic as this but it’s a good idea to have your caterer inspect of your place to accommodate areas needed for his entire team and cooking requirements to prevent problems that may arise and may hamper him to deliver his best results
during the day of your event.

Demand for an itemized invoice for C.O.D. deliveries. At least two days before their job, draw your checks. Although staffing fees are part of the food bills, gratuities preferably in cash, are given at clients discretion directly to individual waiters and kitchen staff at the end of the party. Choose courses in the menu. Today’s superior food markets feature a vast array of ingredients that can be mixed and matched into exact meal you have in mind. Express your ideal meal -the kind of food and presentation, and the atmosphere you want to create. If caterer proposes a fee structure that you are not prepared to meet, ask him to suggest possible concessions or cuts. Know what you want and how much you are willing to pay.  A good caterer will always have reasonable options to spare; someone without flexibility is not a good resource to work with. Bear in mind that concessions of lowering price by reducing serving portions defeats the purpose of throwing a party and is not a best way to save money.

Arrange for food tastings. Most caterers these days opt to give tastings to clients before they may ask for a deposit. But in most cases it’s understood that in order to  confirm the right caterer one needs to ensure food quality satisfaction. Food tastings  are a great way to test the standards of the catering company and allow a greater  understanding of what you and your guests like and dislike!
Ask your caterer about their quantity of food. It’s important to have a bit more food than you think you need. Running out of food is one of the worst event faux pas. But, you also don’t want to end up with too many leftovers that will eventually be charged for more than what you needed! Ask your caterer for average food quantities from some of their past events – this should give you a good idea to confirm how much to serve for your guests. Ask lots of questions at the tastings – you’re the customer! Agree on methods of Waste Management. Ask your caterer how they manage food waste. Will they allow you to keep non-perishables for your Sunday brunch the next day? Can leftovers be composted? How will they dispose waste? Will you allow dish washing on site? If not, where and how will it be facilitated? How will they clean up? Will these procedures save you money and help the environment?
Do it or delegate it well in advance. Catering is loaded with boring details and trivialities: polishing silver and glassware’s, pressing and folding napkins and linens, laying out guest towels in the powder rooms.
Advise your caterer about matters you don’t opt to do ahead, so he can provide everything. But if you tell him that you or your housekeeper will get these things, they should be ready when he arrives.
The least favorite pre-party scenario of any caterer is taking a staff member away from his assigned duties to run errands which is not part of his planned duty for the day of the set up. Things like this hamper the timelines and may cause some stress to the whole preparation.
Be a goodcommunicator. In the day of the event, after you’ve finished dressing, but before the guest arrives,  meet with the entire staff. Describe how you see the evenin going from where you want to put guests’ presents to how you’ll initiate the surprise toast before dessert. Sometimes parties have a mind of their own. Since you can’t see the dining room while preparing the food in the kitchen, ask head waiter to alert you when changes occur so you can make necessary adjustments. Use
words that are precise and concise so both of you clearly understand each other. Reiterate your message and ask him if your demands are understood to the letter.
 Respect your caterer’s space. Few days before your event, make sure to clear kitchen counters, empty the oven, try to maximize refrigerator space and have different sizes of vases handy for guests inevitable gifts of flowers. It makes caterer uncomfortable to client’s children romping around or friends coming in and out of the kitchen while confiding, “I just love to cook.” Barging in the kitchen is like going backstage at a height of a performance; it’s a privilege but actually distressing for most chefs. Kitchen staff moves in a deceptive casual manner and have the “BODY KNOWLEDGE” of people accustomed to working together in small spaces.  Allowing your foodie-friend from standing dangerously close to a chef beside a stove is allowable but if your place is small it cramps the kitchen area making staff uneasy for free flow.   

Remember, these are just general tips – there are so many ways to be creative with food and food service! As someone who loves to cook, I choose a caterer who can win my confidence and work to pull off my event. But, once you've selected a reliable service provider, your hard work is done. While you'll need to keep in contact with your caterer as the event approaches, you can relax and focus on other aspects of your party.

by: Danny de la Cuesta

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cook Magazine November Issue

A Progressive Feast

 Transporting our annual family reunion for thanksgiving in Ilocos Norte did not make it difficult; in fact,
it made it more memorable for us.
Two years ago, my maternal aunt, Perpetua, the beloved linchpin around whom my family
revolves suddenly felt that a trip from Ilocos Norte to Manila for our annual TUMBA-an Ilocano day of thanksgiving and prayer
for the family’s faithful departed celebrated every 2nd day of November in time when harvest is almost done, was not, at age 87,
what she wanted to do. It seemed like an extremely reasonable decision, although TUMBA without Nana Perpet was not what we
wanted to do either. Instead, we did the understandable; we packed up and took TUMBA to her.
When I became a chef fifteen
 years back, I volunteered to prepare the yearly TUMBA luncheon on the precondition that every family member attending should
contribute to the ingredients needed for the menu. I had packed a carton of essential equipment: my huge heavy oval Le Creuset
pan: a couple of knives that are my third arm and a full neck to knee white Egyptian cotton apron- my indispensible cooking uniform.

Another carton held bottles of four different wines, I joyfully gathered as gifts from friends and business associates. Tucked
within the wine bottles were jars of cashew nuts from Antipolo, dried candied ginger from Chinatown, and mammon tostado from Malabon. 
I had gone over a market list with my cousin, Manang Waya, in advance. She delegated each family member what to put in the feast:
two marinated jumbo free range chickens from Magnolia, beef shank ‘Bulalo’ from Tagaytay, ham bones from Excellente in Quiapo,
Spanish chorizos from Shopwise, and Baguio veggies from Divisoria. My cousins residing in Ilocos volunteered to bring in the Milagrosa rice,
pig trotters from their bagnet store in San Nicolas Market, some of the newly harvested sweet potatoes, frozen sofrito from last summer’s
tomato harvest and lots of sun dried, seedless duhat soaked in Tanduay rum last may for my dessert creations. All of these were waiting
for us when we arrived, looking like culinary road warriors, the day before the feast.  As usual, I felt the enormous sense of relaxation
that comes with advance planning. With the menu I devised, I knew I could do the main course & desserts in a breeze: Lauya is a stewworthy
number I adapted from my grandma’s recipe book.
Lauya is probably one of the regular Ilocano holiday fares. In the old days, grandma cooked
Lauya on a vast caldron that simmers all night, hardly bubbling. It used to be the hallmark of the middle-class Ilocano kitchen.
On that special
occasion, however I made a tribute to this magnificent Ilocano dish in the style of French Bouilli, the Italian Bollito and the Spanish Cocido. 
I began by throwing all the ingredients in a huge pot to slow cook tough meats all night. The most important components are the meats I chose
 for their diversity of flavors. I threw a chunk of cured pork meat and dried sausages, bone-in beef shank, pig trotters, ham bones, whole
free-range hen and beef offal into the caldron making it tender by long and slow simmering together with its other elements- chickpeas, carrots,
potatoes and savoy cabbage which generated a seductive smell while it metamorphoses into a very flavorful and rich caldo. The velvety succulent
 meat fell off the bone they ate it with a spoon.
Lauya is traditionally, served in at least in two courses. The first course is always the strained
caldo called Sopa de Fideos – pure, golden and rich, with some noodles. The second course is all the veggies plus the meat for carving and is
eaten with a dipping sauce of vinaigrette. It is a very filling meal, extremely tasty and satisfying. It takes hours to eat the repast most often
the button of your pants gets undone and a big smile swathe your face.
Logistically, the preparation for the rest of the feast was easy to tuck
in the two-day reunion of 18 people.  The morning of All Souls Day while everyone were in the church cemetery for the tumba rites, I prepared
the dessert- my own celebration of duhat. I assembled the ingredients for the duhat crunch-a trifle of biscotti drench in duhat wine from Vigan
and Magnolia cream cheese and another dessert, the duhat . Too many duhat? Not for a berry lover and a holiday sentimentalist like myself.
The truth is the different textures and temperatures of these two desserts just emphasized the possibilities of our local berry rather than the
 blueberry desserts appearing on trendy restaurant menus.
I solved one last holiday dilemma with my progressive feast: presents. As I prepared
 the Duhat Bread Pudding with Orange custard Sauce and the Duhat Cashew Nut Trifle, I decided they were too good not to share. So I began to
 multiply quantities and search for local baskets for packaging. Then I asked my cousin, Gasat, to ship these treats complete with recipes, off to
 absent family members and friends, a logical-and fitting-extension of this truly progressive feast.


Lauya Ingredients:
10 oz dried chickpeas,soaked overnight
9 oz fresh pork belly

4 oz bone in beef shank with marrow bone, sawn accross
1 pc Magnolia free-range chicken
½ kl beef offal
3 pcs Spanish chorizos
1kl Chinese ham bones
1kl pig's trotter, split
1 whole garlic bulb
2 bay leaves
8 black peppercorns, crushed
1 small onion, studded with 2 cloves
1 1/2 lb Savoy cabbage, quartered
2 carrots, in big pieces
2 leeks, short lengths
1 lb new sweet potatoes
2 tsp fish sauce

Several hours before cooking, brine all the meats.
Choose a large stockpot. Pack in all the meat, skin side down. Line the bottom of the pot with
beef shank and ham bones, followed by the offal. Fit the pork belly, chicken, pig’s trotter, on uppermost part of the layered meats.
Add the garlic bulb, leeks, bay leaves and peppercorns then cover with water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum that rises.
Leave it to simmer on very low fire for about eight hours.
 Drain the chickpeas, add to the pot, cover and simmer on the lowest possible heat,
checking occasionally. Halfway through, add the onion stuck with the cloves.
In a second casserole, put the quartered cabbage, all the vegetables and all the sausages.
 Add water to cover the ingredients and a fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are ready.
Drain the vegetables and sausages.
Slice the sausages. Arrange the vegetables decoratively on a platter and put the sausage slices on top.
Remove the meats from the main pot,
collecting the chickpeas together. Remove the marrow from the bone and slice it into the chickpeas. Slice all the meats. Arrange the meats and chickpeas on a platter, moistening them with a little broth.

Sopa de Fideos

4pcs medium sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 pc onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 cup fettuccine, cut into 2”long

3 cups of lauya broth

Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic into a blender, and pulse several times to get the mixture moving; blend until smooth, 30 seconds
to 1 minute.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, and stir in the pasta. Fry the pasta gently, stirring often, until the pasta
 is golden brown, 2 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Pour the tomato mixture into a large saucepan, and stir in broth and noodles. Bring to a boil,
and reduce heat to medium low; simmer until the noodles are tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and stir in the
cilantro; simmer 2 more minutes to cook cilantro.

Duhat Bread Pudding with Orange custard Sauce
16 slices bread, crusts removed and cubed
1-1/2 cups duhat, soaked in rum
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/4 cup butter, melted
½ cup diced,
candied ginger
6 eggs
4 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Custard Sauce
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 orange peel strip (1/4 inch)
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

 For the Pudding
In a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish, layer half of the bread cubes, duhat and orange peel. Repeat layers. Drizzle with butter.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla until blended; pour over bread mixture. Let stand for 15-30 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 65-75 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
For sauce
In a heavy saucepan, beat egg yolks and sugar. Stir in cream and orange peel.
Cook and stir over low heat for 20-25 minutes or
until mixture reaches 160° and coats the back of a metal spoon.
Remove from the heat; discard orange peel. Stir in extract.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve with bread pudding.

Duhat Cashew Nut Trifle
12 ounces dried duhat soaked in rum
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons finely chopped cashew nuts
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
24 ounces crumbled Mammon Tostado
2 pcs Mamon Tostado for garnish (optional)

For the compote
In a medium saucepan, combine duhat, 2 cups of the sugar, and 2 cups water.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat;
cook for 8 to 10 minutes until Duhat begins to swell.
Let compote cool completely.
Make cream filling:
Using a wire whisk, beat cream cheese,
brown sugar, remaining cup granulated sugar, and vanilla until well combined.
Gradually add heavy cream; continue beating until soft peaks form.
Assembling the trifle
Arrange 1/3 of crumbled toasties in a serving dish.
Spoon 1/3 of compote over crumbled mammon; spread to sides of dish.
Dollop 1/3 of cream filling over compote; spread to sides of dish.
Sprinkle chopped nuts all over the cream filling. Repeat twice, ending with cream
filling and cashew.
Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day.)

By: Chef Danny De La Cuesta

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nibbling on appetizers

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When the weather turns humid and hot, do as the Europeans do: prepare a selection of small savory dishes and make a meal of them.
Call them antipasti in Italy, amuse-guenees in France, mezethakia in Greece or tapas in Spain, these small flavorful dishes are important components in the Mediterranean lifestyle which is eaten before a meal or a meal in itself. Whether it is a tiny or melting Spanakopita of Greece, Italian Marinated Mushrooms or maybe Spanish Salted Cod Balls these little snacks play an integral part in the Mediterranean culture of communal eating, amusing and nourishing.
Small savory appetizers are perfect entertaining options because most foods can be prepared in advance except for fried dishes as they should be served straight after cooking. Appetizers are intended to whet the appetite they tend to be those dishes which are rich in spice, garlic, lemon and vinegar.  All these dishes very well match olives, chunks of rustic country style bread and a choice of any chilled glass of Spritzer, a Bellini, Mojito or your favorite wine.
Summer is the best time to appreciate this lighter cuisine. Produce gets better as the season advances. Appetizing dishes suit the mood after a long day, when the sun’s heat is tempered and the light is waning, and everyone wants to drift outside to grasp some summer night breeze. And since most of them can be made ahead and eaten at room temperature, mix of textures, tastes and aromas are limitless; it is important to consider a contrast of colors and flavors and use fresh seasonal produce when choosing the selections. 
I have learned to eat this way in London when I was training in Cordon Bleu. Countless times, I have sat on the terraces and courtyards and nibbled my way through a series of little dishes in the company of friends. Flavors zing and zip in concert conversation which will halt now and then as we  pop crisp potato balls laced with basil into our mouths, sop a bit in olive oil from the mushrooms with a piece of bread, or sipped  bubbly Bellini’s. The lull is always momentary, however, for as anyone who has spent any time in the Mediterranean knows, conversation is as important an ingredient to life as food and wine.
In fact, I think that these finger foods stimulate discussion and thought. It’s impossible to resist inspiration after a mouthful of cucumber and feta cheese salad. And once inspired, it is imperative to share, which is why these dishes demand at least a small group of friends. Best of all, this manner of eating is good for enduring summer. Because it is prepared with light hand and eaten in moderation, it is the perfect make away with the scorching summer heat. Inspired by Mediterranean dishes, these recipes I share offer healthy, delicious sustenance not only for the body, but for the soul. They signal, too, a way of life that includes sunshine and postprandial naps, lots of time to sip and nibble, to discuss the important things in life with friends, or to stare in to the distance with impunity.
Truly, small dishes are perfect for midsummer treat. Try these recipes that will sure warm your hearts.…
Marinated Mushrooms with roasted Red Bell Peppers

The small, individual champignon mushroom is usually marinated ideally with herbs. Dishes based on the combination of mushrooms are actually quite rare in traditional Mediterranean cookery. But lately, I have begun combining mushrooms with intensely flavored vegetables and bell peppers are one of my most popular among them. 

2 cups of white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon of salt
2 lbs button mushrooms, stems trimmed
2 pcs red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced
4 pcs bay leaves
2 all spice berries
1 garlic clove, split in half
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 branches fresh rosemary

1. Boil mushrooms in vinegar, peppercorns, salt and water in a medium heat till tender.
2. Transfer in tea towels and pat dry. 
3. Place mushrooms in dry jars alternating with roasted peppers, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves.
4. Completely cover with oil. Close the jars tightly and let it sit in dry place for at least 4 days. Mushrooms can lasts for several months. Serve with crusty bread at room temperature.

Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)                                                                                                      t
This recipe taste like the pie I get from one of the Greek Town restaurants in Athens. Thank you so much, Michelle Dinglasan for lending me your recipe.  My son loved it!!! I used butter for my phyllo dough and I added a little salt and pepper, dill weed and nutmeg...
2 pounds spinach (steamed, squeezed, drained and chopped)
1 cup Kesong Puti, from DVF dairy farm (crumbled)
1/4 cup dill (chopped)
1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
1 bunch green onions (sliced)
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oilphyllo dough, cut into three lengthwise, buttered and sprinkled with pepper, dill and nutmeg.
1. Mix the spinach, kesong puti, dill, parsley, green onions, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
2. Brush the bottom of an 8x8 inch baking pan with olive oil.
3. To assemble the Spanakopita, portion some of spinach mixture onto each end of phyllo and fold into a triangle.  Place onto a baking tray.
4. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Once done, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite yoghurt dressing.

Spanish Salted Cod Balls
                                                                                                                        Actually, you do not have to use salt cod; any meaty, salted fish will be a good alternative. after visiting Seville during a trade fair , I found that all the ...small cafes had a platter of cod fish balls and toasted bread on the table when you sat down as free appetizers to munch... they were made from the left over cod and bread from the previous day. We ate them and drank wine, it was great!.
2 lbs salted Lapu lapu, soaked overnight, boiled and flaked from bones
1 large potato, unpeeled, boiled, and mashed
2 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped, and fried
2 cloves garlic, crushed and fried
¼ cup self rising flour
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Extra Olive oil, for deep frying

Combine potato, salted fish, onion, garlic, flour, egg yolks and parsley in bowl.
Whisk egg whites until stiff then fold into the potato mixture.
Heat oil to 190F, drop heaping teaspoon of cod-potato mixture into the oil and fry till golden brown.
Drain in paper towels and serve with twist of lemon.
Greek Salad                                                                                                                                                              When you want a light refreshing side dish for a quick summer dinner, this Middle Eastern salad is a great go-to recipe. It's simple enough to throw together for an average weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough to serve an appetizer.
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled into ½ inch
4 cucumbers seeded and diced into ¼ inch
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint, ground till pulverize
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
Combine powdered mint, oil and lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper
Pour over the vegetables and toss well.
Fried Potato Balls with Cilantro
This is a popular street food in Morocco, where they are eaten plain or used as sandwich filler. They can also be served as an appetizer or as a side dish.
1 lbs potatoes, washed, boiled and push through a ricer.
3 pcs sweet potatoes, washed, boiled and push through a ricer.
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
3 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup Cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 ½ cup olive oil for frying
Mix potatoes, herbs, spices, eggs and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper
Using 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture, form into small balls.
Heat oil to 375f then fry the balls till golden brown but being careful not to crowd them. 
Lift balls in paper towels and let it sit to drain. Serve with aioli sauce

Baba Ghannouj (Middle Eastern Eggplant dip) It is said that the woman who created this recipe pureed the eggplant just to ease the eating and digestion of her old and toothless father. Substantial and nutritious, it has a smooth, creamy texture, and a slightly smoked taste. It is traditionally served with pita bread but is good for tortilla or chip dips.
2 large eggplants, grilled till blistered and soft, peeled and drained then chopped
3 cloves garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon cumin
½ cup lemon juice2 tablespoon tahini
Pinch of cayenne pepper
11/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley
Black olives to garnish
Process eggplant, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, cayenne pepper and olive oil until creamy
Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with black olives
Serve with flat bread.

Mango Bellini
This is the version originated in the Famous Harry’s Bar in Venice. Instead of the usual sparkling wine and peach juice, mango juice and champagne makes this a tempting, and stronger variation. Served at celebrations, it is one of Italy's most popular cocktails.
1 ripe, sweet mango
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp sugar syrup
1 Tbsp mango rum
1 bottle champagne, chilled

Peel and pit mango. Process flesh with lemon juice until smooth puree is achieved
Sweeten to taste with sugar syrup. Strain
Add brandy to the puree and stir.
 Divide the nectar among chilled champagne flutes and finish the drinks with chilled champagne

Chef Danny de la Cuesta

Thursday, August 23, 2012


1) http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=837124&publicationSubCategoryId=87

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3) http://angtakawko.blogspot.com/2012/08/bringing-ilocano-food-to-metro-manila.html

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6) http://oureatdates.blogspot.com/2012/08/bringing-ilocano-food-to-metro-manila.html

7) http://yaniconquistadora.blogspot.com/2012/09/comida-ilocandia-slow-cooked-flavors.html

8) http://markpogi0121.blogspot.com/2012/09/ilocandia-treats-at-comida-ilocandia.html

9) https://foursquare.com/v/comida-ilocandia/501947b7e4b08659767c1ae5

10) http://www.metrodeal.com/deals/Metro_Manila/Comida-Ilocandia/229613116

11) http://mommysmaglife.blogspot.com/2012/10/comida-ilocandia-and-spaoay.html

12) http://www.manilenyamom.info/2012/09/good-food-at-comida-ilocandia.html

13) http://www.tsinoyfoodies.com/2012/10/comida-ilocandia-budget-friendly.html

14) http://www.pinoybudget.com/save-50-off-comida-ilocandia/

15) http://kwentototo.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-comida-ilocandia-spaoay-experience.html

16) http://www.yousaytoo.com/good-food-at-comida-ilocandia/4212094

17) http://dealicioso.com.ph/tag/comida-ilocandia-philippines/

18) http://eatworkandblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/comida-villas-and-spaoay-ilocano-food.html

19) http://sayitnessie.com/2012/09/25/comida-ilocandia/

20) http://www.philstar.com/travel-and-tourism/2012/08/12/837333/bringing-ilocano-food-delicacies-metro-manila-affordable-prices

21) http://www.blog-ph.com/2012/11/comida-ilocandia-and-spaoay-hidden-gems.html

22) http://looloo.com/r/12qh

23) http://www.tablesurfer.com/2012/08/bringing-ilocano-food-to-metro-manila-at-attractive-prices/#more-1275

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comida Ilocandia's Heritage Dishes

1) Bagnet in Ilocos Sur or Chicharon in Ilocos Norte is the Ilocano version of the lechon kawali—pork slabs are boiled in a saline solution, air dried, then twice fried until they are crunchy and golden. In the early days of my childhood, my grandparents cooked bagnet that were stored in burnay- stoneware jars. The jar was loaded to the rim with the pork oil that solidified into lard as its temperature lowered. The lard was used to re-fry the pork before serving or for flavoring vegetable dishes such as the pinakbet, the tang for for the miki soup or to perk up the garlic-fried rice. Lately, it has become a prohibitive condiment for those over thirty.

Ilocano Adobo
2) The Adobo Ilocos is dry compared to any regional cooking versions. The adobo marinade is used profusely in making Longanisa, Dinuguan-(stewed pork blood pudding) and Higado. These recipes differ according to meat cuts and added ingredients when cooking. The use of generous amounts of vinegar and garlic preserves the food for longer periods. It is impossible not to find these food items in every Ilocano household, which is practically served for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Tinuno on a stick
3) The Tinuno roast pork in Ilocos are cooked in slabs. Marinated in a pungent- garlicky flavored marinade, they are smoked and grilled in high fire for a very short period. The chunks of grilled meat are sliced in bite-sizes then served with the house signature dipping sauce made of vinegar, fish bagoong, ginger and birds eye peppers.  

Ilocos Longanisa
4) The Longanisas are coarsely ground pork mixed with lots of back fat and adobo marinade. The Ilocos Norte version is known to be juicier and more fatal than the ones in Vigan because they contain more fat. These longanisa versions fall on the salty- garlicky side. It is a bit spicier and vinegar-flavored with a hint of paprika and oregano. The best way to cook longanisa is to blanch the sausage in liquid then drip dry. Gently prick each link and let it cook in its own oil under low heat until it turns into golden brown. Expect an appetite-building aroma while these longanisas are cooked.

5) The Higado is the Spanish word for liver. This dish is made with pig’s meat & sweetbread- soaked in brine before slicing to reduce the slimy taste. Higado is a sweet stew made possible by the juices of the roasted red bell peppers, onions and garlic that gives flavor to the sauce then seasoned with Ilocos vinegar and fish paste that builds the savory taste. Preparing the pork liver is the secret in this dish as common mistakes of many Ilocano home cooks. When not properly set up the liver ends tough when cooked.

Cooking these stewed dishes in Ilocos is a ritual for all home cooks. It takes them three days to prepare and cook these heritage fares before they are dished up. However, when served on the table, the meal instantly becomes a feast.

Today these heritage dishes are available in Chef's Danny's Comida Ilocandia for dine in or for bulk orders.

Delivery is on us! 994 7596 / 709 9041 or 09189256603 for reservations. 

Crispy Dinuguan

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bringing Ilocano Food to Metro Manila at Attractive Prices

Chef Danny de la Cuesta poses in front of the Comida Ilocandia, the newest restaurant along Timog Avenue. Serving genuine traditional Ilocano bagnet, crispy dinuguan, higado, Vigan longganisa, and tinuno,  Comida Ilocandia is definitely the place for your cravings.  

The doors of Comida Ilocandia opened during storm Gener’s entry last Saturday (July 30) but foodies, business associates, and close friends of fashion Designer turned Chef Danny de la Cuesta and his four partners were undaunted and pushed through with the occasion.

This is because Chef Danny and his partners believed that their mission of bringing Ilocano food and delicacies into Metro Manila is far more important than the weather so they could satisfy those who are hooked to the rich taste of slow- cooked traditional Ilocano meals and even first- timers who eventually get hitched to this gastronomic experience.

Though one can find, here and there, genuine Ilocano bagnet or pinakbet, there is no consistency in the supply, price and quality of these food items. However, at Comida, anybody can order Bagnet, Adobo Seco, Crispy Dinuguan, Tinuno (barbecued ribs) and Higado, in-house or to go dishes for one or in bulk.

 Crispy Adobo Seco

 Crispy Dinuguan


 Longanisa Laoag

Chef Danny, a gracious host explains to diners the nuances of Ilocano dishes. Bagnet from Ilocos Sur are Chinese-inspired in the way lechon macao while in Ilocos Norte, bagnet comes of Mexican influence and is called chicharones.

Bagnet in Vigan or Chicharon in Laoag

To make these dishes more affordable at P98 per microwaveable box, Chef Danny made sure to prepare and serve value meal sizes also (consisting of any of these meat dishes plus rice and Ilocano- pickled vegetables).

At Comida, there are also traditional Ilocano specialty drinks like Champola- guava or guyabana coolers, and Horchata- rice milk, along with innovations on rice coffee (dark roast) or rice tea (lighter roast) brews.

“Since we started last Saturday we have been selling Bagnet and our bottled pickled vegetables (inartem) so fast, our commissary is hard-pressed catching up with the orders,” Chef Danny said.

A true-blue marketer, Chef Danny explains to his guests what makes his Ilocano cuisine a cut above the rest, is because it is cooked based on universal cooking & tastiness standards. For one, we prepare our meats in slabs after brining, marinating and braising them a day at a time. There is no rush to cooking the meats. At all times, our Adobo are cooked slowly in very low fire for more than eight hours until they are very tender. After that we rest them for a day or two. Constantly, we use natural flavors of sukang Iloko, molasses, lots of garlic, peppercorns, laurel, oregano, pimiento and others.”

“Since adobo are cooked in slabs, we only slice and refry a small portion per meal then we freeze the rest. Only sufficient slices are served per meal. The longer the meat is kept, the better it tastes,” Chef Danny explained.

The process of cooking bagnet slabs is also as tedious as the adobo and so with the Higado and the crispy dinuguan. “We do not resort to short cuts,” Chef Danny added.

"Ilocanos", he gags, prepare their meat in slabs because during every meal, each family member partakes a considerable slice of the meat while the bigger slab is displayed on the table for the members to visually feast while chewing the rice on the plates. This way the meat lasts for other meals, and this traditional joke is very true in Ilocos Norte, Chef Danny chuckles.

Why the meat is made to last long is because of the frequent and prolonged visits of storms in the Ilocos region, making life very hard and families are forced to make their food last until after the storms, he explained.

De la Cuesta, who spent 44 years in fashion designing and selling his brand of ready to wear clothes and made to order gowns before extending into business development and culinary arts, partnered with childhood friends, classmates and associates such that each investor is responsible for a specific aspect of the business. Chef Danny takes control areas on Conceptual & Product Planning, Business & Market Development.

His venture from fashion designing (where he had 72 employees under him) to cookery was upon the advice of his doctor after a heart attack in the United States. He joined a national competition of San Miguel. A short culinary course in Le Cordon Bleu in London that came part of the prize extended to nine months of learning more skills. Upon returning from London, he was consulted for food brands mostly for recipe development, cooking demos and mentoring.

Then he ventured into business development with brands that are now very commercially viable. 

Ilocano cuisine right in the heart of the Metro

Celebrated Celebrity Chef Danny de la Cuesta brings another innovation combining authentic Ilocano heritage cuisine when he recently launched the “Comida Ilocandia” a thematic Ilocano bistro.

Chef Danny provides his guests with facilities for dining famous Ilocano slow cooked recipes. He engineered his Bagnet, Adobo Seco, Crispy Dinuguan, Tinuno and Higado to meet universal cooking & palatability standards. 

Comida Ilocandia is open daily from lunch to dinner ready to bring more and new dishes to food lovers. Located along Timog Avenue in Quezon City.