EntertainingParty food on the go

Party food on the go

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She usually serves all foods from her kitchen, but in spite of her best intentions, one of society’s favorite hostesses, Bettina Osmeña, gets a little help from other suppliers, or frozen foods from her commissary, to cut down preparation time.

Bettina Osmeña by the vegetarian corner. The table is laden with the healthiest olive oil, ‘adlai’ or pearl barley, and Kale chips; Welcoming entrance to Gourmet Corner
Bettina Osmeña by the vegetarian corner. The table is laden with the healthiest olive oil, ‘adlai’ or pearl barley, and Kale chips; Welcoming entrance to Gourmet Corner

“Party hosting is a major production,” she says. “I have to prepare everything from the starters, salads, and pastas to the main course.”

During one of her birthday celebrations, the busy entrepreneur had no other recourse but to draw from several sources.  For Chinese cuisine, her go-to restaurants are Peking Garden and Hai Shin Lou. Still, the menu was eclectic. A friend gifted her with misua noodles for long life. The piece de resistance was the classic lechon. From her Gourmet Corner store, the birthday celebrator served up truffle siomai and caviar pie, which are made in her kitchen.  The evening meal climaxed with her favorite coffee crunch bake from the kitchen of Baby Yulo, whose desserts are in the must-list of the Forbes Park and Dasmariñas Village crowd. Osmeña cites another favorite, Costa Brava’s coffee cake.

In these fast-paced times, serving store-bought meals or frozen foods in parties has become socially acceptable, and even the norm.

Osmeña has always been known for hosting unforgettable meals with hearty home-cooked dishes, served in an understatedly elegant setting.

Callos’

In family gatherings, she serves pochero, callos, steak, spaghetti vongole, Caesar’s salad, risotto, and lasagna. Osmeña’s home cooking has been the benchmark for her children. When they eat out, they can’t help but note that the restaurant food sometimes isn’t on par with her standards. The popularity of her meals created a demand for orders of her kitchen specialties such as beef bourguignon, Korean beef stew, and lamb curry. The home business naturally evolved into a retail operation, Gourmet Corner at San Antonio Plaza.

Aside from offering frozen foods made at her commissary, Gourmet Corner also helps out artisan cooks and bakers, mompreneurs, and start-up food makers. The enterprising owner scours around for suppliers with interesting offerings.

Spare ribs

Osmeña has been immersed in other food-related businesses such as the distributorship of Aloe Cure and imported foodstuff. As with many working hostesses who want to prepare food from scratch in parties, time won’t allow it. She then turns to convenience foods, particularly frozen dips, sauces, soups, and viands. With proper preparation, there’s not much distinction between fresh and frozen. Freezing temporarily suspends the fresh, premium ingredients in her recipes until they are ready to be savored. Freezing seals in the nutrients, freshness, and flavors.

Premium convenience food caters to different needs. “BGC residents live in small units. The kitchens are tiny, so that people can’t cook much.  They buy frozen foods. There are mothers who want to buy nutritious foods for their children, and people who live alone.”

Then there is the ritzy village crowd that needs quick fixes for surprise guests or last-minute additions to party menus.

Truffle siomai; Potato and leek soup

One can plan an entire party meal from Gourmet Corner. For appetizers, there are many options, such as truffle siomai and truffle hakaw, calamares en su tinta (squid in its black ink), Moroccan chicken puffs, and chorizo nibbles. There are vegetarian options—dips from Edgy Veggie, kale chips from Take Root, vegetable dumplings, and Greek phyllo triangles.

Breads and crudités are accompanied by homemade dips, salmon belly sardines, and crab with sauce.  Osmeña adds that olive oil is a hostess’ must-have.  Gourmet Corner’s unfiltered olive oils do justice to the salads.

During warm days, she recommends cold soups such as gazpacho. Her potato leek soup can either be served chilled or hot. Vegetarians can enjoy roasted carrot soup, pumpkin soup, or North African vegetable stew.

The pasta means a choice of homemade Bolognese or tomato-based sauces, baked macaroni, mushroom cannelloni, wild mushroom, spinach lasagna, and pesto ravioli.

In keeping with the health trend, Osmeña offers the rare adlai or pearl barley, an heirloom rice that is at Gourmet Corner all year round.

Depending on the meal theme, one can go ethnic on the main courses with pancit, longganisa, chorizo, tocino, chicken relleno, bangus steak, hiplog (hipon sa itlog), Ilonggo-style adobo and galantine, Davao humba, bagnet with shrimp paste, and short adobo ribs.

A continental-themed menu can include chicken a la king, salt cod peppercorn, lamb tangine, fabada china, Moroccan meat balls, spicy chili con carne, and tofu walnut patties.

Osmeña makes room for desserts with such familiar favorites such as galletas, alfajores, and diet busters from Vargas Kitchen.

She assures that each food item uses the healthiest ingredients.  “They are healthy because a lot of time and effort were put into them,” she says.

Photographs by Paul San Juan

This article originally appeared on Asian Dragon Magazine’s June-July 2017 issue, available for download on Magzter.

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