An icon’s 24-year food journey

3 08 2010

Margarita A. Fores and her 24-year food journey

LECHON (ROASTED pig) in sinigang (meat in a usually tamarind-soured broth with fresh vegetables) with sweet watermelon wedges – unlike flowers for spring in “The Devil Wears Prada” – is groundbreaking.  The first time I had it at Café Bola in Greenbelt 3, I knew all the more just how very special its innovative creator was.  And still is.

I ended up frequenting the place, and the first time I saw her walk in to her restaurant seated to full capacity, I was starstruck.  Her Balenciaga motorcycle handbag and her signature wristwatch gleamed against her dusky skin.  She went straight to the kitchen and I remember catching snippets of her animated speech, punctuated by the hearty cracking and chuckling of her plesantly raspy voice.  I thought to myself, she was more like a friend to her staff, a far cry from how mass media had portrayed the privileged to be snobs – stuck-up, and uppity, and snooty.

She walked out of the kitchen, a small dip dish in her hand – the one free from the dangling leather handbag – and joined a big group at the center of the dining area.  It was her family, I figured.  My sight was still transfixed at her when I realized a lot of the other diners were as well.  That was when it occurred to me!  We were in the presence of real beauty – one capable enough not only to demand our attention but also to hold it captive in its ethereal glow reminiscent of leading ladies in Renaissance paintings.

Right there and then, I knew I had become a fan.

Margarita Araneta Fores, arguably one of the culinary icons of our time, looks back to her 24 years in the food business through her essay “My 24-Year Food Journey” in last Sunday’s The Philippine Star.  A score and four years that gave birth to Cibo, Café Bola, Pepato, Lusso, The Commissary, and soon, Gastroteca di M.

I once wrote here, after having seen her on Secrets of the Masters, that hers is a personality that transcends the barrier and the limitation imposed by the TV screen.  Now, add to it the written word.  I devoured her writing the very same way I would approach her gastronomic innovations – allowing myself to be teased with the first quick taste, the first small bite, only to yield unbridledly in yet another work of (edible) art and heart.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2010 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

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Only in Secrets of the Masters!

2 05 2010

I JUST caught the latest episode of Secrets of the Masters – this one with the tagline, “On the road!” – and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, both for the wealth of culinary talent we have, and the sustainable bounty of the sea and the earth that can find their way to our dining table.  Chef Boy Logro was the featured culinary master and he did a wonderful job getting this message across.

The Taal Volcano and Lake

The show took me on a gastronomic adventure of Tagaytay City and the surrounding Taal Lake.  Chef Boy, together with a couple of guests from the Taal Vista Hotel, prepared a total of five dishes that put local ingredients on the spotlight, front and center.

He started with Al Horno Ostras Y Quesillo (Baked Oysters with Kesong Puti), an homage to the bivalves that thrive abundantly in the city’s nearby waters.  I like the potent mix of whirred greens (basil and spinach among others) that he slathered on to each oyster.  It’s so much better than a solitary, sad spinach leaf that makes it to a Rockefeller.

Pinausukan Yaman Taal ng Maliputo at Unsoy” (Steamed Maliputo Fish with Unsoy Herb) featured this fish that is indigenous to the Taal Lake.  The poaching liquid used was a heady mix of Chinese wine, oyster sauce, some kind of mushroom sauce, onion leeks, and pungent ginger, among others.  But the star flavor comes from the “unsoy” herb, also indigenous to Tagaytay.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across it – unless it’s some hybrid or derivative of the “wansuy” (fresh coriander).

The Taal Vista “Bulalo” (beef bone marrow in a ginger broth with fresh vegetables) by Chef Babes Austria brought this dish to a whole new level as her broth used coconut water!  I was also fascinated by her use of a whole vine of fresh peppercorns, but more so by her presentation of the soup in a coconut shell.

Crispy Taal Lake Tawilis with Tagaytay Micro Greens in Calamansi Vinaigrette featured yet another seafood that originated locally, the “tawilis.”  It was cleaned (gutted), then seasoned with salt and pepper before being dredged in flour and then deep-fried to a crisp.  It was served on a bed of the baby greens and dressed ever so lightly with the simplest of vinaigrettes – just fresh calamansi juice, salad oil, salt and pepper.

Herbs Aromat Crepe with Tagaytay Tinapa and Seafoods began with an “unsoy” herbed crepe.  Chef Boy swirled his batter to perfection on a lightly greased non-stick skillet that I scrambled for paper to take down the proportions of his “perfect” batter.  Each very thin herb pancake was filled with seafood – mussels, fillets of Maliputo fish, squid, and smoked tawilis – before getting nestled on a layer of bechamel sauce, smothered with mozzarella cheese, and then baked.

I’ve often wondered why Filipino cuisine hasn’t shattered the glass ceiling of international renown.  At some point I thought that probably its because unlike the Thai with their sweet basil and Tom Yum, the Vietnamese with their mint and pho, the Chinese with their peanut oil and dim sum, the Japanese with their miso, nori and raw fish, and the Indian with their curry, Filipino dishes aren’t yet defined by a unifying flavor or ingredient.

But one thing is for sure.  We come from an archipelago blessed abundantly by nature, with talent that is truly on a par with the best in the world.  Secrets of the Masters shows us exactly that.

Copyright © 2010 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Chef Sylvia Reynoso-Gala’s Roast Spanish Chicken and then some

6 07 2009

I FINALLY caught again the Secrets of the Masters episode of Chef Sylvia Reynoso-Gala!  For the second Saturday in a row, I got out of bed before lunch time. I turned the TV on and was surprised to see her while surfing through the channels.

So off I went to grab my notebook and blue Bic ballpen – I prefer to write in blue ink – so I could jot down the recipes.  I hope this helps one of my readers who had inquired in the past about Chef Sylvia’s recipe for Pollo Iberico (Roast Spanish Chicken).  Previously, all I could write about was how I felt about Chef Sylvia, not exactly her recipes.  So, with two ripe guavas that had fallen from the tree outside and a tall glass of sub-zero water for breakfast, I take down notes as accurately as I can.

Here they are – the bacon-wrapped roast beef with three-mushroom gravy and pollo iberico (roast Spanish chicken)! I’m throwing in the roast beef for good measure.

(By the way, I noticed that she really gives out most of the measurements – not only her secrets! – which to me comes across as a true mark of a teacher. She’s been doing this for over three decades, that’s why!)

Bacon-Wrapped Roast Beef with Three-Mushroom Gravy

For the roast:

250 grams           Honey-cured bacon

1 ½ kilograms    Beef tenderloin (center still frozen)

For the gravy:

½ cup (1 stick)   Butter

½ cup*                  Fresh white button mushrooms, sliced

½ cup*                  Fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

½ cup*                  Fresh oyster mushrooms, sliced

1 piece                    Beef Bouillon Cube

½ cup*                  All-purpose flour

1 cup*                    Water

2 teaspoons         Liquid seasoning

*measurement I assumed based from what I saw, as it was not explicitly stated

Procedure:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  She didn’t specify this. I just based this from my own understanding of how to roast meats.*

Line up the bacon slices.  Put the beef tenderloin on the end near you and fold the bacon slices onto the beef.  Roll the whole thing so as to tightly wrap the bacon around the meat.  Put the bacon-wrapped beef on to a roasting rack placed on an aluminum foil-lined roasting pan.  Put it in the oven to roast.  Oh, she didn’t specify how long (and at what temperature*)!  Though I would suggest to roast it until medium to medium well only. For a beef tenderloin this size, 30 minutes would be for rare.  35 minutes for medium rare.  So, I suggest about 45 minutes.  Serve with the three mushroom gravy.

For the gravy, melt ½ cup of butter in a heavy bottom pan.  Saute sliced fresh white button, shiitake, and oyster muchrooms.  Turn them a number of times in the butter, then set them aside.  To the remaining butter in the pan, add the beef bouillon cube.  Add the flour.  Make sure to cook the flour well in the butter to avoid having that “raw” taste.  Add all the water.  Change to a wire whisk and whisk the gravy to prevent any lumps from forming.  When it has thickened and is coming to a simmer, add back the sauteed mushrooms.

 

Pollo Iberico (Roast Spanish Chicken)

(Chef Sylvia said that they give this to family friends for Christmas and everbody just loves it!)

1 or 2                      Spring chickens, whole, cleaned

For the marinade:

1 cup*                     Vegetable oil

3 big heads            Garlic, cloved separated and then smashed (pounded)

3 tablespoons       Soy sauce

3 tablespoons       Black peppercorns

2 tablespoons       Rock salt

1 teaspoon             Dried rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon             Paprika

½ teaspoon           Dried basil

½ teaspoon           Dried oregano

2 teaspoons           Sesame oil

*measurement I assumed based from what I saw, as it was not explicitly stated

Procedure:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  She didn’t specify this. I just based this from my own understanding of how to roast meats.*

In a big bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients well.  Rub the marinade all over the chicken – on the skin, in both cavities, and in between the skin and the meat.  Stuff the rest of the marinade inside and in between the skin and meat of the chicken.  With kitchen twine, tie the legs and the wings of the chicken, to ready it for roasting.  Wrap the chicken in cellophane (yes, cellophane!) and put it on to a roasting rack placed on an aluminum foil-lined roasting pan.  Let it roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes*, until the chicken reaches your desired golden brown doneness.  Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and lemon wedges on the side.





Two sauces, five dishes, one fine lady

28 06 2009

NEVER BELIEVE a thin chef, Clinton Palanca once wrote in his regular column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (if my memory serves me right).  While I admire his humor and biting sarcasm – apart from the fact that I don’t see anything wrong with that line – I still took his advice with much skepticism.  Especially because of Chef Margarita “Gaita” Fores.  (I actually consider her more along the lines of “fit”.)

Chef - Margarita Fores

Woman on top – Chef Margarita "Gaita" Fores

When Secrets of the Masters first aired their trailer for what they called as a “first in Philippine TV,” I sort of frowned upon the fact that among the many “prominent” culinary figures whose names were interspersing in the text, not one said “Gaita Fores”.  Not only does she dispel the gospel of the “not thin” chefs, she happens to be one of the real culinary masters we have today.  Her successful ventures as chef-restaurateur- entrepreneurCafé Bola, Cibo, Pepato – stand as testaments to her genius in the best of world cuisine – authentic, or fusion with a local twist – that she has been offering to the discriminating Filipino palate.

So it didn’t come as a surprise to me anymore when they eventually featured Ms. Fores on the second Sunday of May.  I meant to blog about the show then but I just got swamped at work.  But thankully enough, when I turned on the TV on Saturday morning (I woke up before lunch time – now that’s a feat!), there was her episode being replayed.  Now, I have to really get down to it and blog!

Of all the many chefs featured on this show so far, I have to say that Ms. Fores happens to be the most articulate.  She came across as really self-assured, speaking with authority while being very generous and forthcoming with sharing her culinary secrets.  Even on its second airing, her episode managed to hold me captive with every word as it escaped her mouth.  She has a personality that transcends the barrier and the limitation imposed by the TV screen.  I had seen her a number of times in Café Bola and Cibo before – either sharing a meal with her family or taking the lead in the busy kitchen – and one thing that really struck me was how much a commanding presence she was.  She is not your conventional, cookie-cutter beauty.  But she would enter a room and she would command everybody’s attention.

For her Secrets of the Masters stint, she made two sauces that served as a foundation for the night’s dishes – “Pomodoro Crudo” (Marinated Raw Tomatoes) and “Pesto Genovese” (the classic Basil Pesto).  She showed how the marinated raw tomatoes could be used three ways – as pasta sauce (“Spaghettini Al Pomodoro Crudo”); as topping for bruschetta; and as sauce for grilled chicken breasts (“Chicken Breasts with Arugula and Palm Heart with Marinated Raw Tomatoes and Balsamico Dressing”).

As for the pesto, she combined it with a mushroom cream sauce and tossed it together with al dente farfalle (bow tie pasta) to come up with what she called as “Farfalle Genovese,” hands-down one of the bestsellers in Cibo.  As a nice, sweet, healthy ending to the sumptuous feast, she offered grilled fresh fruits with mascarpone cheese and dark brown sugar (“Frutti Grigliati Con Mascarpone & Zucchero Di Canna”).

The show’s host, Ms. Issa Litton, pointed out Ms. Fores’s simplicity of methods and techniques, as well as her going back to basics.  In her response, Ms. Fores declared that the nice thing about working with Italian food a lot is that the cuisine is really based on simplicity and just the produce itself that one works with.  Having Italian food as her first experience in working with food has really kept her really gounded and true to the first principles that she learned when she started (to work with food).

The presence of “kesong puti” (Filipino fresh cottage cheese) and “ubod” (heart of palm) in some of the night’s dishes further underscored Ms. Fores’s role as champion of the best Filipino ingredients and how she has been using them in her delectable creations.  Through her love affair with Italian food, she actually discovered – or re-discovered – so much about our cuisine and what makes it unique.

In my book, this episode is a keeper.  Not only did I see a true master at work but also, and more importantly, I felt her palpable passion – what she called as “a maternal instinct to feed and nurture”.  She hopes to continue on this path as she strives to make life and living a little bit more beautiful for others.  Not only for her clientele but for all the people she works with and all the people she meets along her way.  It was heartwarming for her to say that the whole experience on the show afforded her the chance to also learn from the audience and the crew.  Said Ms, Fores, “No matter how long you’ve been doing something, keep the point of view that everyday there is always something new to learn.”

Spoken like the true master that she is.

———–

This is the first time that I really paid close attention to the recipes featured. Here they are, the best way I was able to recall them. I didn’t capture the measurements (though none was explicitly stated) but anybody who’s ever cooked knows that most everything is “to taste”.
Segment One: Marinated Raw Tomato Sauce (“Pomodoro Crudo”) used three ways

Mix together chopped tomatoes (“roma” or “plum”), torn fresh basil leaves, minced fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Ms. Fores made a huge batch because she intended to use this sauce three ways.

Spaghettini Al Pomodoro Crudo.  Cook the spaghetti or spaghettini according to package directions.  Use a lot of water in a huge pasta pot.  Season the water generously with salt.  Pasta water should taste like the ocean.  Toss freshly cooked al dente spaghetti or spaghettini with the marinated raw tomatoes, and top with crumbled “kesong puti” (Filipino fresh cottage cheese).

Bruschetta with Marinated Raw Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese.  Ms. Fores showed how to make bruschetta the real way, with subtle garlic flavor.  Rub the cut side of a large clove of garlic on to sliced Tuscan round.  Then soak the cut sides of the bread in really good extra virgin olive oil.  Slap on the grill.  After grilling, season the bread with a little rock salt.  Top each slice with the marinated raw tomatoes.  The juices of the marinated raw tomatoes will soak up the bread a bit.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese on top.  Crack some fresh pepper on top.  Dress with a little bit more of good extra virgin olive oil.

Chicken Breasts with Arugula and Palm Heart with Marinated Raw Tomatoes and (just a tad of) Balsamico Dressing.  Marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts in extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic.  Slap on the grill.  Once done – with grill marks to boot! – arrange the chicken breasts on a platter.  Dress generously with the marinated raw tomatoes.  Tear lots of fresh arugula leaves on top.  Toss in slivered fresh “ubod” (heart of palm).  Drizzle with a little “balsamico” (balsamic vinegar) and extra virgin olive oil.

Segment Two: “Pesto Genovese” (classic Basil Pesto), the old-fashioned way

The term “pesto genovese” means a sauce that originally came from the city of Genova (hence the “genovese”) and was originally made with a mortar & pestle (hence the “pesto”).

Pesto Genovese.  In the mortar & pestle, pound the fresh basil leaves into a pulp, then add some chopped garlic, salt and pine nuts.  Douse everything with good extra virgin olive oil and add freshly grated parmesan cheese too.  What’s good with pesto is that you should add it only in the end. When everything’s already cooked, that’s when you add it, especially when the pasta is already off the flame.

Mushroom Cream Sauce.  Use a medley of fresh wild mushrooms.  She used oyster, white button, and fresh shiitake.  Secret – Do not wash fresh mushrooms! We always are sort of mindless when we get to the kitchen and wash everything! Do not wash fresh mushrooms unless you want a disaster. Just wipe it with a damp cloth to remove whatever brown stuff you see.

In a heavy bottom skillet, saute lots of minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil.  Add in all the sliced wild mushrooms, except the oyster mushrooms.  When these are about half-cooked and the nice broth is starting to come out, that’s when you add the oyster mushrooms.  Season with rock salt.  Add some heavy cream.  Allow to reduce and thicken a bit. Add a little butter (just a little!).  And for a nice cream sauce, grate fresh nutmeg into it!  Ms. Fores said it smelled like Christmas!  She recommended nutmeg for cream dishes that have vegetables (eNTeNG – like spinach!) and those wherein cream is the more prominent component of the dish.

Farfalle Genovese.  While working on the sauce, cook farfalle (bowtie pasta) according to package directions.  Since this was “the second batch” of pasta (after the spaghettini above), she used the same water that remained in the pasta pot.  Invest in a nice enough pasta potThe pasta pot and pasta water could be your new best friends!  By the way, this pasta shape is perfect for cream sauces because it has little ridges that sort of scoop the sauce.

Toss the cooked farfalle into the mushroom cream sauce.  Drain the farfalle from the pasta pot but don’t be afraid to let a little (dripping) pasta water get added in to the sauce!  Freshly grate parmesan cheese on top.  Freshly crack black pepper on top.  Transfer everything on to a large serving platter.  Add the pesto sauce and mix well.  Scoop a spoonful of the pesto on to the center of the dish and put a sprig of fresh basil for a nice garnish.

Segment Three: Grilled fresh fruit with mascarpone cheese and dark brown sugar

Frutti Grigliati Con Mascarpone & Zucchero Di Canna.  This is a nice, sweet, healthy ending.  Slice pineapple into wedges, navel oranges into discs, and bananas into halves lengthwise.  Coat the fruits with a good drizzling of fresh lemon juice.  Slap on the grill.  Once done, transfer them on to a serving platter.  Top with a glaze of melted butter with dark brown sugar and lemon juice.  On the side, serve a tub of mascarpone cheese (carefully removed from the tub, with the shape of the mold preserved) topped with lots of the dark brown sugar.

———–

Café Bola, Cibo, Pepato… and now… Lusso!

“It’s my new baby actually.  It’s called Lusso.  And “lusso” means luxe in Italian.  It’s a little champagne bar in Greenbelt 5.  And the concept is more like a hotel lobby not in a hotel!  It’s a restaurant that serves slightly substantial dishes…  It is luxury with a conscience.  You can experience all the wonderful things that a luxury concept can give you.  (But) it’s not priced out of the market.  It’s priced by taking everything into consideration – especially the economic times, the way our country’s situation is.  It is a nice place to feel spoiled and enjoy yourself.”

– Chef Margarita “Gaita” Fores, talking about her newest venture on “Secrets of the Masters”




Sylvia and Jill – teacher and student are now both masters

12 04 2009

 

I’VE ALREADY professed my love for Chef Jessie Sinsioco here.  This time, I’d have to do the same for two more artists of consummate skill in the arena of Philippine cuisine – Jill Sandique and Sylvia Reynoso-Gala.

 

I have been a faithful follower of Secrets of the Masters since it started, but quite obviously, I haven’t been able to write about what I think of each episode – of each chef actually – since I’ve been quite swamped at work.

 

But I just have to for these two ladies.  (And as you shall see towards the end, for Ms. Issa Litton too!)

 

CHEF JILL SANDIQUE’s episode is airing right now, as I write.  I first saw her as the special guest judge in a Ka-Toque cook-off (among the show’s resident chefs).  I haven’t heard about her then.  And she wasn’t giving highfalutin critique of any of the dishes that was presented to her.  I mean, she wasn’t speaking to “impress” the televiewers.  But I did feel already that she was a young force in the culinary industry.  How?  I could tell it from the way each Ka-Toque chef was painfully shy – a bit afraid even, I guess – in presenting to Chef Jill Sandique his or her creation.  It was a case of a barely discernable smirk or a slight pursing of the lips that could spell doom.  It was as if Chef Jill didn’t need to speak at all and they would already know if the dish would have better been left in the kitchen.

 

Tonight, she whipped up a menu that started with an appetizer, a salad, then a main course, and of course, a dessert.  My use of “of course” in the previous sentence is beyond the need for an adverb.  It is in the literal “as-might-be-expected” sense, especially since Chef Jill is well-known to be one of our country’s top pastry chefs.  Her cheesecake is the stuff of legend!  (eNTeNG’s Note:  I haven’t tasted it yet though.)

 

For the “first dish” a.k.a. appetizer, she made a Tomato & Chorizo Quiche Pinoy Style, served with baby arugula on the side!  Now, how can a savory quiche go wrong with my favorite greens on the side?!  Chef Jill and Issa agreed that the secrets to a quiche are the custard base and the crust.  Her salad course, Mesclun of Baby Greens with Dried Kamias Vinaigrette, takes the cake for creativity!  She used dried kamias – picked and dried by herself! – as the star ingredient that infused the characteristic flavor to her vinaigrette.  She didn’t put mustard at all because, in her own words, she wasn’t going for a classic dressing.  Undeniably, the salad fuses all the basic tastes into a melange of flavors that can only be truly Filipino!  Duck Braised in Basi Vinegar, Muscovado Sugar & Star Anise was in store for the main course, served with Stewed Fruits of dried mangoes, figs and raisins on the side.  I don’t really crave duck – except for The Good Earth Tea Room’s “Duckquitos” – but what Chef Jill prepared with a distinctive Ilocano flavor cooked in the Visayan way was really something.  The combination of the sour (vinegar), sweet (sugar) and fragrant (star anise) very well summed up that what Chef Jill was preparing could simply be a “Duck Humba.”  It sure looked yummy, and as always, Issa made a genuine assessment of the dish (I loved how she compared and contrasted duck and chicken meat!).  Mad brownie points for Chef Jill as well for showing two ways to prepare it – “isang pang-restaurant, isang pambahay” (one of the restaurant, one for home).  Capping off a fantabulous night, she made a towering “summer Christmas tree” that was her Mango & Walnut Torte, made of classic meringue kisses (baked from scratch – oh, can this be store-bought?), whipped cream, and fresh mangoes.  Crispy, chewy, sweet, and creamy all at the same time!

 

The one thing I really loved about Chef Jill Sandique was how sincerely and profusely she paid tribute to her mentors – the Ms. Glenda Baretto of Via Mare fame, and the Ms. Sylvia Reynoso-Gala who she called as her first teacher on professional cooking and baking.  It all the more made sense to me that her episode is coming right on the heels of Ms. Reynoso-Gala’s that was shown last week.

 

Clearly, the teacher and the student are now both masters!

 

CHEF SYLVIA REYNOSO-GALA’s episode was the most fun I’ve seen.  It’s just too bad I wasn’t able to write real-time then.  But I do remember that hers was the most family fun episode too as she brought along her very well-brought-up and very amiable children Chefs Morella (did I get it right?) and Ernest (whose column in the papers I follow).  For someone of her stature in the industry, it was very refershing to see her so warm, so motherly.  Without a doubt, a lot of wannabe chefs can take a cue from her on how not to be consumed with all the “celebrity.”  She also kept saying that she doesn’t believe in keeping her culinary secrets to herself.  She shares them!  Which I guess is the ultimate secret of her decades-long culinary school, itself an institution here in the country.  I loved it that her episode made use of one technique for all her dishes – cooking or baking in the oven.  The Roast Beef Wrapped in Bacon, the Roast Spanish Chicken (Pollo Iberico), and the baked fish dish were all mouth-watering!  And oh, I remember she made some kind of Greek or Mediterranean salad too.  She used feta cheese but also offered the tip to use our local “kesong puti” (cottage cheese) instead.  This cheese she said to be “lasang langit!” (heavenly divine).

 

The one thing that really jumps off from the screen the whole time I was watching Chef Sylvia was her humility in light of all the success she has had.  And yes, her very perceptible love for her family.  All I can say is that she is in the perfect profession to profess her love – for her work and for the people she nourishes with her work.

 

 

And now, something about the Issa Litton!

Issa Litton is really growing on me!  I guess that I’ve never seen her at her best as a host than on this show.  I like it that she has become really effective in putting into words the experience of trying each dish the masters whip up.  I have to say that hers is quite a very enviable position!  Hahaha!  On a lighter sidenote, she subliminally sends off the message that we can eat most anything and still look great – it’s all a matter of a holistic lifestyle.  And I guess, everything in moderation.  And one more thing, I like her hosting skills in the sense that she doesn’t allow any “dead air” on the show.  I mean, the master chefs sometimes get to be at a loss for words as they get all caught up in the execution of their art.  It’s on these instances that Issa articulates whatever’s going on – with perfect timing, almost impeccable enunciation, and never overdone.  She looks brainy, never at the mercy of a teleprompter.  Great job!