Our trip to the Philippines began on March 16. We spent a week eating delicious food in Austin, TX during the SXSW conference. Some highlights were La Sombra, Torchy’s at Trailer Park Eatery and Uchi, (yes, I am behind on writing, but as soon as I finish the reviews, I will link out to them) those were my two favorite places in the whole town. In order to make it to the Philippines from Austin we made a quick pitt stop in Detroit. The layover was long enough to require a hotel, but not long enough to head to town so we stayed at the Westin at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Besides this hotel being lovely, the food at their restaurant, Dema, was off the hook. I was actually glad to enjoy dinner, lunch and a light breakfast there before the flight.
The flight would have cost $12k, which I could not have afforded. I saved points for a long time. My last long flight (to Chile about 3 years ago) was over 11 hours and absolute torture. My back was destroyed for a full week. I knew that this would be worse. The trip took a total of 15 hours and I imagined myself with jet lag and an achy back. It was worth it to cash in the points. When we boarded we were given the menu which was designed by one of my favorite chefs: Michelle Bernstein. My first encounter with Michelle’s culinary talents was at Azul in Miami over five years ago. Ever since that day I have looked forward to her future projects. You can imagine my pleasure when I saw that she was the chef responsible for designing the menu. Better still, the wine list was put together by (insert name). Quite a nice wine list. I sat down in my super comfortable chair and was greeted with a glass of Champagne, not sparkling wine…but actual champagne; insert name to be exact. It was pleasant: dry, not overly yeasty with nice perlage. Although the list had some nice options, I decided to stick with sparkling for the rest of the flight. The flight attendant came by to take our menu order. A few minutes later, I was presented with another glass of champagne and a nice bowl of mixed nuts. Pleasant, small and a nice way to set the mood.
Black Swan was playing and since I had not yet seen it, I hit play. Good movie, but something was lacking…maybe a little more development between the characters? Maybe I was just frustrated that Nina was not under psychiatric help? I’m not really sure. Am I the only person who feels this way?…but I have gotten away from the subject. Food. A tasting of two appetizers magically appeared: beets with frissee and goat cheese, perfectly cooked shrimp in lemongrass with marinated hearts of palm (just enough acidity) and a lovely basil tomato soup. Bread was offered, but I skipped it to save room for the main course.
As if one salad was not enough, out came a pretty serious salad: mesclun greens, tomatoes, pears, jicama, nuts and a little oil and vinegar. Delicious, to be frank, I was already reaching fullness….But as a food blogger, sometimes one has to sacrifice the waistline.
My dinner was a filet of beef in mustard sauce with sweet potato wedges and vegetables. The flavors were lovely. The profile of the meat was great but, sadly, cooked well. I like my steak mooing. I can see that this would have been a lovely piece of meat had it not been completely sucked dry of blood, but I also understand the predicament of airline meals…for them it is better safe than sorry. Overall, the flavors made up for the temperature (not heat, but the doneness) and I can recognize that it was quite a nicely done dish.
I had a bite of Antonio’s dish, he chose the roasted chicken a l’orange with celery puree and stir fried green beans. It was peppery and nice. The texture of the puree was not to my liking, the beans were fine but overall, this was an excellent airplane meal. Think this was it? Wrong…all of the sudden I was offered a snack. I chose the cold soba noodles. My apologies for no picture, but I was 4 glasses of bubbly in, the lights were off, people were sleeping so I was forced to take the pic with my iphone hidden under my blanket. needless to say it came out crummy…so no image. How was it? Yummy. On a regular flight I would have taken this as my dinner.
Time for dessert. I felt like I was at an upscale steakhouse in NYC. Fresh fruits, great cheese choices, cakes (chocolate, cheesecake). I decided to have ice cream…it was more of a vanilla ice; light and fluffy and flavorful. I could have opted for toppings, but since I had pigged out already, I just went for a side cookie. Tasty, almost uncomfortably full…but must document each dish on this trip.
Am I done? Nope…I did mention this was a 12 hour flight, right? Before the plane arrived in Manila, we made a stop at Narita in Tokyo. But before reaching Narita, there was breakfast. I chose the mushroom and swiss cheese omelette. It came with two links of chicken apple sausage, a potato pancake and a grilled tomato. This was a slammin’ breakfast. There are few things I like more than a stewed tomato or a well made omelette. The star…the potato pancakes. Fluffy, not greasy in any manner and flavorful. The sausage, simply yum.
We landed in Narita, a beautifully clean airport. One thing I immediately noticed was that many Japanese people were wearing masks. Americans tend to look down on this as weird, but I love it as an idea. People wearing masks are not germaphobes. In Japan it is considered polite to wear a surgical mask when you are sick as to not spread germs. The custom has spread as far as Colombia in South America where restaurant workers are required to wear masks. I gave myself homework..as soon as I land I will research the effect of mask wearing in Japan and Colombia to see if it has had an effect on public health. Another thing I automatically loved about Japan…free (and fast) wireless. I went on twitter, facebook, checked website traffic and called my mom via Skype. Not bad for a 30 minute layover. I also stopped by the Ferragamo and Bulgari stores (no purchases though). It was fun checking out the food products like green tea Kit Kat. Will have to bring some of those home.
When we boarded, it was the same plane. And of course, more bubbly and more food. First thing we got was a bag of nori snacks…I was tempted to open them, but after the last delicious nori snacks I tried, I figured I could save these for later. This was a good idea. I opened them a few days later at the hotel and they were delicious.
My second dinner (or is it brunch/breakfast/lunch? by now I am confused) consisted of a gorgeous salad (greens, heirloom tomatoes, onions, baby corn and Asian dressing), smoked scallops in citrus sauce with peppers, the main dish was shrimp and tofu in brown sauce with baby bok choy and rice with red hot peppers. Dessert was cheesecake with strawberries. The dressing on the salad was ridiculously tasty. The veggies were fresh. The scallops were tasty, not chewy and perfectly dressed. The shrimp in the main dish had an ideal texture, the tofu was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside (somehow the 9chewiness worked), the rice was perfect by itself, but even better when mixed in with the brown sauce. The strawberry cheesecake was bliss. I took two bites. As you can imagine, there was not much room left in my stomach. I only wish I could have eaten the whole cheesecake the berries and the light creamy cake were idyllic.
Delta has refueled my faith in airplane food. After the horrible experience on Continental first class to Colombia, this flight more than made up for it. Delta, Cathay Pacific and Air France are my favorite airlines to fly when it comes to food. Keep up the good work.