Monday, February 25, 2008

A Date with Madge

Belated Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! While I am still at it, allow me to let you on what I had for V-day. I had a wonderful dinner at Chef Laudico’s Bistro Filipino conveniently located at the heart of Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. But more than anything else, it was the company of Madge Lejano that made the evening more memorable.

There were two things that made me want this restaurant for my dinner-date with Madge:

1. A place away from the crazy Valentine’s Day crowd
2. Good food, good ambience and good service in one place

I came to know of Bistro Filipino since it opened a few years ago. It was the husband-and-wife team of Chef Rolando and Jackie Laudico who catered the wedding reception of Gino and Via Abano in Punta Fuego as well as their Manila reception held at the pool side of One McKinley Place (back in April 2005). I had a gastronomic feast during those two functions and was excited to know that they opened a restaurant to cater to their steady stream of discriminating clientele.

I was early for the dinner and was eager to see Madge. Upon entering the cozy restaurant, I was gladly welcomed by Jackie herself, who despite the busy evening ahead of her hopped from one table to another to make sure that everything was perfect.

Madge arrived in her nicely coordinated black-and-white ensemble. After exchanging pleasantries, we started with the set dinner.

We had crispy lumpia cone filled with chorizo, prawns and heart of coconut topped with spicy sinamak sorbet for appetizer. Gingerly presented in clear shot glasses, it was a refreshing drift to the all-time favorite lumpiang ubod. The sinamak sorbet provided an interesting flavor to the dish.

Madge and I talked about life in general. I learned how Madge started and how grateful she is to Dino Lara who took notice of her talent when they first collaborated for an album cover project. She was convinced by Dino to enter the wedding industry. On the other hand, it was the collaboration with another photographer, John Ong, that made Madge a popular name among soon-to-wed brides. Since then, Madge has turned to both Dino and Jong for matters concerning marketing and the improvement of her craft. Just like the sinamak sorbet to the dish, they both influenced Madge on what is she is today.

Next came the seafood sinigang na miso bouillabaisse with grilled pan de sal. The broth was topped with garlic aioli and was cleverly placed in a martini glass. The soup was perfect with its consistency and flavor. Small portions of mussels, shrimps and clams added texture to this sumptuous bisque.

Just like the soup, Madge’s life is filled with a lot of surprises—the formulaic elements of an interesting teleserye material. Since I am bound by our pact of secrecy, I would not elaborate on the nitty-gritty.

Salmon cured in tamarind salt was served with cucumber and mesclun salad was up next. It was served with pepper vinaigrette topped with mango salsa. It was a unique combination of texture and flavor.

For the main course, I had slow-braised Wagyu beef and lengua estofado style with potatoes. It also came with vegetables layered with rice tutong crisps. Madge on the other hand, had oven- baked Chilean sea bass served with Lukban noodles in local sea urchin roe with asparagus sauté.

At this point, we exchanged funny and not-so-happy stories of our lives. Our conversation was so spontaneous. I could not even remember the last time I laughed so hard at how crazy I was years ago—from the outrageous antics I had to resort just to meet someone (I flew all the way to Cebu and Davao just to meet this person.) to the traumatic experience of how I saw a dear friend being turned over to a rehab center (I swear, I still have a very vivid picture of that fateful day.).

Madge is also a pretty amazing woman. Her superwoman responsibilities range from her duties as a doting mother to her three kids (I learned that in a few years from now, her eldest daughter will be celebrating her debut already) to her being the head of her own make-up studio—where she takes care of the business as well as the welfare of everyone—Aaron, Felicity, Jesy, Karen, Joel, Steve and Mot).

For dessert, the chef prepared yema experience which reminded me of munchkins filled with sweet custard cream. It was served with vanilla ice cream and bignay wine shooters.

Just like the dessert, you get to enjoy life only if you are willing to take what it has to offer you—complete with surprising twists and turns.

Getting to know Madge is truly something I am happy about. Not only is Madge a great talent but she is also a woman of strength and character. She is worthy of all the praises heaped on her. If there is someone who deserves to be happy, it surely is Madge. I am with her in praying that she finds “the one” who would be able to appreciate her and bask under her sunny disposition.

To you Madge, thank you for a very memorable Valentine’s Day.

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