Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An organic dinner

An organic dinner
November 16, 2011
Manila Standard Today

Ten years is a milestone for any organization, more so for non-governmental organizations that have taken upon itself the welfare of the country’s underserved. That’s why when it celebrated a decade of helping alleviate poverty, the Peace and Equity Foundation decided to hold the first “Social Enterprise: The Next Business Model,” a conference that would bring together leaders and NGOs that have been helping rural communities through social enterprise.

The conference featured local practitioners and promoters and their stories of how they achieved both financial sustainability and social impact. The two-day conference, held at the Hotel Intercontinental Manila, tackled different case studies from traditional business people who successfully brought community products into their supply chain, to non-governmental organizations that ventured into profit-making activities to advance social aims.

To mark the success of the conference, PEF tapped celebrity chef Jessie Sincioco to craft a dinner that would best highlight the event’s aims. In turn, chef Jessie turned to the different communities that PEF has worked with and utilized their produce in creating a dinner that would honor the unity among the different participants.

And what the event organizers and chef Jessie decided to bring to the table that night was organically grown ingredients. The menu was a celebration of local ingredients and a new way of presenting Filipino favorites.

Cocktails included crudités made with yacon sticks on ice, taro chips with tzatziki, spinach tempura with wasabi mayo dip, and pickled vegetables. Accompanying these delights were chilled wines of bignay and strawberry, and a refreshing drink made with the juice of red camote tops flavored with calamansi and honey.

The meal started with a novel roll of sautéed oyster mushrooms wrapped in mustard leaf with a dressing of vinaigrette made with sukang Iloko and lemon. The tart dressing balanced the bitterness in the mustard leaf and brought out the sweetness of the mushrooms.

The soup course was a cream of broccoli and cauliflower with whole-wheat croutons.

In between the fish and chicken entrees, chef Jessie served a refreshing sorbet of lemon grass, which cleansed the palate of the sharp flavors of the green. The sorbet highlighted the fresh taste of lemon grass, which was echoed in the lemon grass iced tea served throughout dinner.

The fish course was a baked cream dory fillet with spinach sauce. The dory was farmed locally; guests were assured that the fillets were fresh and not frozen for a long time. The spinach sauce added a piquant taste to the fish, masking whatever fishy taste it might have had.

The chicken course was a take on the popular chicken inasal, but using organic chicken and turmeric. It was paired with choice organic vegetables of baby carrots, chayote, and beans and a pilaf of red and brown rice and capsicum. This was certainly not your ordinary corner-store inihaw. The chicken came in huge portions that have liberally flavored with a turmeric-based marinade. It was a pretty yellow even in the dim light.

Dessert was another innovation: tablea chocolate mousse and Cordillera honey panna cotta. It was served with chilled wine made with coffee cherries. The tablea mousse had a flavor that was as delightful as the best dark chocolate, while the panna cotta was soft and welcome. The coffee berry wine was tart to contrast with the meal’s sweet ending. And as a pleasant touch, coffee and tea were served with polvoron, instead of the usual cookie or biscotti.

Chef Jessie matched PEF’s trailblazing effort in the NGO community with a dinner that was memorable that highlighted what the local communities were good at. If only our other celebrity chefs would sit and take notice of our locally grown produce for use in their delicious dishes.

Chef Jessie Sincioco is one of the country’s top chefs. She is behind the success of her Chef Jessie restaurants at the Rockwell Club and Top of the Citi. She was also associated with Le Soufflé and Enchanté restaurants.

For the past 10 years, the Peace and Equity Foundation has worked closely with people’s organizations to provide potable water, healthcare and disaster relief to the country’s poorest communities. It also assisted non-governmental organizations in their livelihood and micro-finance activities to help small entrepreneurs. For this conference, PEF was partnered by the League of Corporate Foundations, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress and PinoyME Foundation.