I can’t believe it’s FOOD magazine’s 20th anniversary already! I remember during my early teenage years my Mom used to collect all the old FOOD Magazine compilation books. I’d look through them now and then, but at that time I wasn’t even the slightest bit interested in being in the kitchen. Fast forward to today and I practically spend all my Sunday mornings experimenting on recipes in the kitchen. Who would’ve thought that things would change so drastically huh?
But one thing that has been constant is FOOD Magazine, which has practically become an institution already as far as the Filipino food scene is concerned. So imagine my delight when I was tapped to become one of their media partners for their anniversary project called the Food Magazine Food Tastings, a cooking class series in conjunction with Lifestyle Network.
Last Saturday, March 21st, was the first of four of their free cooking classes this year, and I was allowed to bring people with me. Of course I immediately brought one of my BFFs Gilbert, because frankly when I think about bringing someone to a food event there’s only one person whose appetite is unparalleled. When Gilbert and I arrived, the place was unsurprisingly packed.
This particular class is a Pasta & Pizza-Making class and was held at the iconic Project Pie (Tomas Morato branch). I thought it was a brilliant idea. These days when people think about pizza they think about Project Pie. Needless to say there was an added excitement on my part about being here, aside from the fact that we get to learn how to make pasta and pizza dishes from famous chefs!
Just a little background for those who don’t know, Project Pie is an artisanal pizza place where you get to construct your own pizza. That concept alone is something that sparks a lot of interest in people, but I have to say the ambiance of the place is quite fitting for its concept of building and designing, with pipe elements and round bulbs decorating the restaurant. While waiting for the event to start I snapped a couple of pictures.
I’m going to have to take my parents here. I think my Dad is going to really like the idea of customizing his pizza. And before we do that maybe I’ll grab the latest issue of FOOD Magazine about pizza to get ideas for topping combinations!
So the event starts off with opening remarks from FOOD Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ms. Nana Ozaeta, inviting us all to relax and enjoy the casual cooking class we are about to have.
Then Project Pie’s Marketing Head Jill Ilagan took over the mic and assured us that we were going to have fun today. She also mentioned that they are opening their 10th branch in Boracay in April I believe, and there’s going to be some free pizza on the day. So friends in Boracay, prepare yourselves!
Here’s a sneak peek of what we’re going to be cooking today. Everything looks yummy!
Now that the stage is set, out comes our first celebrity chef for the day, none other than Lifestyle Network’s Portia Baluyut, host of the show Pinch of Portia. Portia’s bubbly personality is very infectious! Actually she kind of reminds me of Nigella Lawson not just because of a certain charisma she has, but most especially because like Nigella, even though Portia isn’t a trained chef in the strict sense of the word, she went on to pursue her passion for food. After winning from a cooking competition she now has restaurants and a TV show.
The pasta dish she cooked is called Chicken & Chorizo Summer Cream Tomato Pasta. It features chicken and smokey chorizo, plus bell peppers, and was my favourite of the day. I’m pretty darn partial towards tomato-based pastas, even though this was thinned out a little by cream. I love the tanginess from tomato-based sauces but this had that slight kick of chorizo and paprika that elevates the pasta.
Up next was Chef Nancy Dizon-Edralin, a chef who worked in the US before coming back here to teach the youth to learn how to cook! She’s also a regular contributor to FOOD Magazine. Chef Nancy was going to teach us THREE pasta recipes, which you can find on the photo above. (Just click on the image to enlarge it if you want to try these recipes at home!)
Chef Nancy selected three people from the audience to act as her assistant for each recipe. And all her assistants received one of these gorgeous knives.
Chef Nancy’s first dish was Conchiglie with Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese. This pasta is olive oil-based, but as the name suggests, the primary flavour is tangy and savoury thanks to the tomatoes and goat cheese. The goat cheese is cooked into the pasta base plus added as garnish. There are whole cherry tomatoes in the pasta as well that I always enjoy for their pop-in-your-mouth properties.
Gilbert the sample-grabber master got some pasta for us to taste. I really liked how the goat cheese lights up the pasta, if that makes sense.
Up next Chef Nancy taught us Pasta Portobello, which obviously stars the expensive but oh-so-good Portobello mushrooms. That, and spinach, garlic, plus ricotta cheese are the primary flavours here.
I love love love biting into mushrooms because they are so juicy when cooked right! Then we have the ricotta cheese adding a hit of savouriness.
While everyone is busy doing this…
Gilbert is stalking the staff members handing the samples of every dish. Every time I turned around after snapping photos he’d be holding out a cup to me, and then making his weird “chameleon eyes” expression. If you’ve known him for as long as I have (over 20 years), this kind of stuff no longer surprises nor freaks you out.
Last pasta recipe for the day is the Squid Ink Pasta, or the Pasta Negra. This one is probably one of the “harder” dishes, with the main challenge being where to get the squid ink. But apparently it is sold in some specialty supermarkets in bottles. I should go and buy one so I can make paella negra or my own version of pasta negra as well.
Typically squid ink dishes are paired with seafood, so this is exactly what the dish is all about: black pasta with squid, mussels, clams, and prawns. The pinch of red pepper flakes help to give the dish some heat.
After that, the pasta portion was officially over, and it seemed like the room was filled with a renewed energy knowing what was coming next: PIZZA TIME!
Jill once again took the floor to tell us that after some in-house chefs demonstrate the pizza-making process, we the participants will get to go behind the counter of Project Pie and make our own pizza! How cool is that?!
Look at how attentive everyone is once the Project Pie chefs took the floor!
Chef Leona demonstrated to us the “White Pizza”, basically olive oil based and relying heavily on the flavours of the toppings to make it work. Chef Leona added mozzarella, gorgonzola, and feta as her cheese bases, then added prosciutto, caramelized onions, plus candied walnuts on top.
There is no way that pizza is not going to be amazing. I think it’s safe to say that ANYTHING with caramelized onion is awesome haha! And it was! Definitely a good combination to consider on your next visit to Project Pie!
Meanwhile, Chef Claire demonstrated a “Red Pizza”, which starts with the secret-recipe red sauce of Project Pie. It’s a flavourful red sauce since it already has a mix of herbs in it, but adding on the cheese, bacon, chicken, red onions, mushroom, and basil brings it a notch higher.
And for the first time despite my bias for red sauce, I actually prefer the olive oil pizza. That’s the power of caramelized onions I guess. 😛
Before we were let loose behind the Project Pie counter, we were given a chance to think about what toppings we were going to go with for our pizza. This was pair work so Gilbert and I had to decide on a pizza that both of us were going to love. We checked out the prepared trays that Project Pie staffers passed around, lined with every bit of topping available toppings, sampling a bit of each.
Gilbert and I were pair number 49 so while waiting for our turn, I watched everyone else making their pizzas. They were obviously having a blast making their own combinations, some even piling their pizza as high as mountains!
We were reminded all throughout the activity that piling on the toppings doesn’t necessarily a good pizza make. I find that the trick in making great pizza (and likewise pasta!) is having a good basic understanding of what cheese goes well with what sauce, and what meat goes well with what cheese.
Basically it is all about flavour combination, and not necessarily the number of flavours you have. Food tactics, ya know?
Finally it was our turn! One person gets to go behind the counter and the partner will point to which topping to get from the other side. I let Gilbert do the honours. We decided to make our pizza half red and half white.
Gilbert thought about the toppings so hard he went cray-cray. Chameleon Eyes came out again! HAHAHA!
I super love seeing this pizza assembly-line.
Here are our toppings: Mozzarella and gorgonzola as the cheese base. I told him to get feta but he forgot! For some spiciness, which I like in my pizza, we got some pickled jalapeno and chilies. For our meat we picked prosciutto. It seemed we were trying to hit every spectrum of flavour as we also picked some craisins and candied walnuts for some sweetness. There is caramelized onions in there too, OF COURSE.
Gilbert proceeded to top our pizza while I filled out the Project Pie form. I did my best to decipher the codes haha!
Last touches and our pizza was looking good! All the colours were present in there, and I was happy with the way that it was staring to look kind of Mediterranean.
We submitted our pizza for baking and waited. I was feeling mighty excited about it at this point.
After like five minutes or so… Oh boy oh boy, it’s done! Our pizza is the one with the giant slices of tomato on top, please!
I could feel the desire rolling off Gilbert as we took our pizza to our seat. Of course we had to take a selfie with our creation before anything else. And if you’re curious about the name we gave to our pizza, it stands for MArgaGIlbertCLArisse. Marga is the other part of our BFF trio but she’s studying in China right now for a few months and we miss her! MAGICLA forevah!
Okay cheesy moment over!
Now what can I say about our pizza? It’s a beauty! Look at how pleased Gilbert is hahaha!
But the moment of truth of course was the first bite. And it’s Chameleon Eyes- I mean- Gilbert approved! In all seriousness though, that is one good pizza.
I really want to thank FOOD Magazine and Lifestyle Network for giving us the chance to join this awesome event! Gilbert and I had so much fun! I hope after reading this you guys will also sign up for the next three classes! I’ll keep you posted on when and where the next FOOD Magazine Food Tastings will be, but so far I know the next classes are going to be about healthy eating, hearty breakfast meals, and sugary treats. I’m looking forward to what’s in store!