The Flavors of Spain Goes to Clark (Pampanga)

It was again “Flavors of Spain” season and I received an invitation from Ms. Mitch Garcia, Marketing Communications Manager of Fuego Hotels and Properties to attend the second edition (the first was at Rockwell Center) of this yearly culinary event at the new Hotel Vida at the Clark Economic Zone in Pampanga.  I was joined, together with Mitch and her assistant Victoria “Tori” Teves-Vicente, by a media group which included fellow Business Mirror contributor Ms. Ethel S. Timbol (Dean of Philippine Lifestyle Editors) and Ms. Norma O. Chikiamco (“Filipino Homestyle Dishes” author).

Chef Mikel Arruiz and Juan Roca

The trip from Ayala Center to the hotel took all of 2 hrs. and, upon arrival, we were welcomed by Korean hotel owner Mr. Daesik Han and Gen. Manager Mr. Juan Roca. A lunch featuring Spanish cuisine and wine, hosted by the Economic and Commercial Office (headed by Mr. Javier Alvarez Casanova) of the Embassy of Spain and prepared by Club Punta Fuego Resident Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz (again the star of this running fiesta) and his culinary team, awaited us at the SALT Coffee Shop.

Clara Ole paella

The set menu included fardelito de berenjena relleno dequeso cremosogranizado de remolacha y aceite de pistachio (eggplant stuffed with cream cheese, beet root crush and pistachio oil), consome de txipriones, flotante de manchego, esfereas de pimiento verde y crujiente oscuro (squids consome, idiazabal flotins & black crackers), marmi-tako (tuna & potatoes stew), magret de pato con peras al romero (duck breast with pears & rosemary) and, for dessert, esferas de chocolate con limon (dark chocolate balls with lemon).  Also served was Clara Ole paella and country-style pasta.

After lunch, it was check-in time and we were each assigned a junior suite at Hotel Vida (http://firingyourimagination.blogspot.com/2008/11/hotel-vida-clark.html).  Later, I joined Mitch, Ethel, Norma and Grace Aquino (Hotel Vida’s Marketing Manager) in a van and visited the new Nayong Pilipino and the Clark Museum as well as did some shopping at Puregold and SM Clark (to satisfy Mitch’s craving for green mango and bagoong) before going back to the hotel.  Come dinnertime, we were joined at the coffee shop by fellow travel writer, artist, culinary expert and Angeles resident Claude Tayag and his wife Maryann.  After a sumptuous buffet, it was chitchat time, with yours truly and Ethel regaling (or scaring) the others with our ghost stories.  The equally scared Norma also joined in with her signature Makati Medical Center elevator ghost.  Our stories must have had their desired effect as Mitch and Norma switched from separate rooms to adjoining rooms.  They wouldn’t even let me go until I accompanied them in the elevator (Norma is to blame here). Even so, they were so scared to go to their respective toilets.  I suggested catheters.

Claude, Norma and Maryann

Come breakfast (Filipino this time) at the coffee shop, it was the same group all over again minus Ethel who woke up with a fever (possibly “possessed” or sinapian by a ghost?).  She later joined us and the talk turned culinary with Claude at the helm.  Claude is the author of “Food Tour” and co-author of “Kulinarya.” Our breakfast talk soon extended into lunch and we decided to go Asian and indulge in Korean fare which included the signature bulgogi.   As with all things in life, the good times never last forever and it was time to pack up and go back to our respective homes, families and jobs in Manila. However, to soften the blow of leaving, Claude did not let us go without an early Christmas pasalubong of his signature Claude 9 inasal barbecue marinade, Oriental sauce and pure crab fat.  Now that’s la vida!

Hotel Vida Clark: 5414 M.A. Highway, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga 2023.  Tel: (045) 499-1000.  Fax: (045) 499-0979.  Manila Office: UG-9 Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 V.A. Rufino corner Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: (632) 840-1430.  Fax: (632) 840-3589.  Website: www.hotelvidaclark.com.

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