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Gourmand. For some reason, I’m quite drawn by this word. It’s not necessarily my favorite word, but at the moment, I just love saying it and hearing it. To me, gourmand sounds posh, but not snobbish. And yes, it’s got something to do with food. In the dictionary (of course, I had to check), a gourmand is a connoiseir of good food and also a person who enjoys eating. I’m pretty sure that I’m the latter.
What’s all this drama about this word and in considering myself as such, you may be asking? Well, all I can say is that the ‘gourmand’ in me would like to share with you my relationship with Truffles!
Once upon a time, my mother told me about truffles – what they were and more importantly, what makes them so expensive special. At an early age, I was already intrigued.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I woke up one day and decided to make pies. Savory ones, not dessert pies. A culinary diploma in baking was something I did not posses, which made it extremely difficult for me to perfect the pie crust. Nevertheless, the filling that I made was quite tasty, according to friends and family I consider as my critics. Thank goodness for the Internet, I spent hours online searching for the most delicious savory pie recipes until I concluded that there was one ingredient I had to have – truffle oil!
By then, I had already experimented with truffle salt on my popcorn, on my omelettes and some other things. The truffle, with its powerful pungent smell, would transform an ordinary popcorn or omelette into something spectacular. Although, to each his own, since some people find the truffle taste too strong for their liking.
What happened to my savory pies? Honestly, it was just a phase. What dwelled on were my adventures with food that has a dash of, a pinch of or a drop of something with truffles.
The moment I heard that IRIE Gastropubliko has Truffle Pasta as well as Truffle Fries on their menu, unsurprisingly, I didn’t want to miss out. Fervent, I dragged some friends to I.T. Park to try it out with me.
First, allow me to talk about what’s so awesome about this restaurant. To be honest, it is a little tricky to write about a place wherein you know the owners since people might think you’re biased. I’d like to assure you that I’m not. I decided to check out IRIE because of my TRUST ON THE TASTES of the owners. Jan Rodriguez – the man behind another Cebuano favorite, Ila Puti and his partners, everyone’s favorite ninja, the late Lito Inso and one of my favorite people in the world, his wife, Ara.
On my first visit, I didn’t really get to read everything that was on the menu. I was hungry, yes. So hungry that I just ordered their Buffalo Wings and paired it with a Caesar Salad then I’m a happy camper that busied myself admiring the interiors of this busy place. Price wise -- before you get the impression that they’re expensive, they’re not. Their food is reasonably priced considering that Irie is situated in a pretty swanky location.
Anyway, a few weeks after my first visit, some friends told me about their Truffle Pasta and Truffle Fries which they knew I would love. I didn’t need to kick myself for not noticing the dish on the menu the first time I went. The solution was very simple – visit Irie Gastropubliko again. And so I did.
The verdict? Oh so delicious! According to Jan Rodriguez, their Truffle Pasta is prepared using cultivated mushrooms with black truffles while their Truffle Fries is made with truffle infused olive oil. So many truffles in just one sentence, I know. Going back to my experience, as the experts say, truffles – whether an ingredient for one’s pasta, fries or another type of dish, act on the brain. Its rich taste and aroma nearly overwhelm the senses and flirts with one’s memory on over-indulgence and decadence. Yes, dear friends, that is part of the truffles’ charm.
I could not speak for everyone, so I was curious on how the restaurant managed to hold up to local tastes, on how the other Cebuanos are responding to the truffled items on Irie Gastropubliko’s menu. “Those who have the palate understand the value and flavour of truffles. You see wide eyes, big smiles and goosebumps after a taste, and the experience is evidently delightful,” shares Jan. “However, there are many out there who call themselves foodies (who criticise a lot more than appreciate) but don't exactly get the idea of what truffles are, and end up ordering ketchup with their truffle fries.”
So in case you’ve never tried a dish with truffles before, I highly recommend that you go to Irie and taste their truffled dishes for yourself. For red wine drinkers, Jan suggests that the truffled items go well with Burgundy as it has earthy notes that compliments, or Pinot Noir at the least. As for white wine, the oake Burgundy or buttery Chardonnay should go just as well. For beer lovers, Hoegaarden and Stella Artois is the way to go. Other must-orders at this restaurant include their Irie Burger, Angus Bites and Fish & Chips. You see, the ‘gourmand’ in me is pretty happy that I’ve found another place that somehow gets it right – good food, great service, impressive interiors and of course, convient location.
My so-called relationship with truffles does not end here. I shall tell you guys more about this favorite ingredient of mine (including where you can get it here in Cebu) on my next post. Also, if you won’t mind, I will be sharing some recipes with truffles that you might enjoy. Stay tuned!
Pia Marie Mercado
iSTORYAn League of Writers: Lifestyle