Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner in Manila, by US Potato Board and USDA

This was my first ever Thanksgiving Dinner and Turkey bird experience. It was made special by the invitation from the USDA Potato Board and the US Department of Agriculture. It was also held at the Restaurant 9501 in Quezon City and the dishes were specially whipped up and prepared for us by Chef Myrna Segismundo.

I was given a glimpse of Thanksgiving Day thanks to this event - the star of the night being potatoes instead of the turkey. I was excited for this event because I was looking for a breakthrough experience, kind of like a change of heart, when it comes to potatoes. My likeness scale for potatoes was negative. It has always been just a bland filler for me and not worth eating. I was not surprised that everything on the menu from appetizer to dessert had US Frozen Potatoes.

I was looking for the potatoes with the Seared Scallops and Waldorf Salad. I could only taste the cubed apples with every bite and not the Straight Cut Potatoes. Maybe it's lost in the puree. 

There was also bread and Adobo Pate topped with mashed Potato on the table. I didn't resist the Pate, it was very flavorful and perfect with the bread. I read the menu again and discovered that it was not just regular bread. It was actually Homemade Potato Bread... So that's why it was all soft and compact and tasted rich... It was the first time I've heard of potatoes made into bread and it was my favorite of them all. Plus I could go back to eating it throughout the entire meal.

Next up were Truffled Mashed Potatoes with Porcini Mushroom Froth. The soup was a bit filling because potato was used. It also gives the soup a creamy flavor and consistency without the milk. I picked out the leaves from the garnish too and it added a layer of herby taste to tickle the senses with the truffle oil in every sip. Nice touch, Chef. I also fought the urge to sip the thing like cappuccino with the tempting presentation.

I found it hard to eat the next main dish, the Roast U.S. Tom Turkey, because I couldn't decide which one to try first and the meat was a little drier and tougher than the ones I'm used to. A lot of flavors were going on with the turkey too like the Bread & Nut Stuffing and the Minted Orange-Cranberry Relish. Here are my favorites: the Creamed Spinach (to cleanse the palette), the Candied Crinkle-Cut Potatoes (the best), the Giblet Gravy (the best pair with the turkey). 

Finally, there it was - Mashed Potato Crepe and Vodka Sabayan with Poached Pears & Grapes. In short, potatoes still hounding and still surprising me for dessert. I couldn't even tell the difference of the pears and grapes; they both tasted great. I guess the difference also of having crepes made of potato is that it's smoother and softer and thinner but I'm not an expert. I'm just a curious foodie. It did taste a lot like dessert-y and not side-dish potato. I loved the torched portion. It was like eating liquid creme brulee.

It was truly a magical night - a night that transformed my view and culinary possibilities when it comes to ordinary-yet-made-extraordinary potatoes. I guess it takes people who know their potatoes (USPB and USDA) to teach one about potatoes. Kudos to their continued efforts in providing the Filipino, and the world, market quality products (in this case, potato in plural) and ensuring that US Frozen Potatoes don't go out-of-stock the whole year round. Not only that, I thank you for recognizing the Filipino culinary ingenuity and sharing it with Manilenos like me. If there's also one thing that I will take away from this Thanksgiving dinner, it's that there's nothing like being with your family, even if you don't get along at some point or had some sort of fight or you can't take one more bite, and sharing the feast with people close to your heart in any way possible, even if you're miles apart. It makes you think of love and how trivial arguments could be as compared to the experience of family and togetherness. Now, you don't have to wait 'til Christmas to do that.

*Rushed to another restaurant for a second dinner with the family.

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