Lita's friend, Beng, had been able to book a group of 3 for dinner because Vicky was already cooking for a bigger group. Although Vicky only takes one group at a time, Beng had convinced her to include her little group. When Beng heard I was going to be in Baguio that same weekend, she told me that maybe, just maybe, Vicky could also accommodate our family of 4.
"I heard you're cooking dinner for a group of people tomorrow. In the wild chance you have room for a few more, we are four", I was very hesitant to ask just the day before, but Lita kept texting me from Manila''"Call Vicky, okay? I'm sure you'll love it."
What luck! Hopeful diners usually book way ahead, and make it a point to gather a group for the experience. Here we were, spontaneously asking, and spontaneously being included! Happiness!
We arrived in time to help devour breads and dips, fresh oysters and cheese.
Chef Vicky opens her home, for private dinners (six diners minimum). She usually books only one group at a time but I think she scanned her guest list and guessed correctly that we all knew each other.
When we got there, it felt like we had entered an aunt's home and were greeting cousins. We socialized over the appetizers, then sat down in two different tables.
Too bad it was already dark when we got there and we couldn't appreciate the view. I heard the view of the mountains from her house is spectacular.
After about thirty minutes of socializing and appetizers, it was time to take our seats and begin our 8-course degustation meal.
This is a truffled custard on top of caramelized onions and mushrooms served inside an eggshell. The finger toasts had anchovy butter.
This was the first time the girls were experiencing a dinner as fancy as this and they were excited at the sight of the flatware they were going to use.
Next was a very clean tasting broth poured over a dollop of chicken mousse. Chef Vicky came to the table to describe each dish. She also explained, in great detail, how everything was cooked and the many unusual steps necessary to achieve the flavors.
In between the soup and the next dish was this unique palette cleanser--a cheese crisp topped with a melted marshmallow. Salty and sweet at the same time.
Then came the fish course--a firm but very tender halibut in a flavorful sauce. I should be able to describe exactly what was in the sauce because Vicky did explain it, but I don't remember the details.
After the fish, we needed to take a short break. The meat course had just been seared and was being finished off in the oven. It still needed to rest for a few minutes before being sliced and served.
The evening was casual and relaxed and we were in the company of old acquaintances. We didn't mind the pacing and lingering over interesting conversation.
Now to continue. This little amuse bouche dumpling prepared us for the meat course. Again, I forget exactly what this was but it was very delicious.
And finally, the roast tenderloin with a red wine sauce and a serving of rissoni pasta and haricot verts.
One can order a simpler 5-course degustation meal for children but I think these girls would be very upset if I did. They were enjoying this meal immensely and were polishing everything off their plates!
We finished off with a plate of greens--watercress with pomelo, orange and very sweet pineapple, tossed with a citrus dressing. I loved this.
For the finale, a light but sinful pavlova with fresh mangoes and strawberries, topped with chocolate sauce. The girls inhaled theirs and C was bold enough to ask for another one. Just like in a aunt's house, another serving appeared before her.
What a lovely evening this turned out to be, and a unique experience for all of us.
The other group sat in the big table
I'm glad I listened to Lita and Beng, happy I texted Vicky, and delighted to have had this unusual experience at Mama's Table. Sometimes the best experiences just happen without much planning.
Salamat Chef Vicky! We loved our evening with you!
by Vicky Tinio Clemente
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