An all-dessert dinner

By Caroline J. Howard, ABS-CBN News Channel

Posted at Aug 10 2010 03:44 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2010 12:38 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Dessert usually comes last--as a sweet way to end a meal.

But this is not the case for Executive Pastry Chef Guillaume Bonnety, who has created a five-course meal that strives to be more than just icing on a cake. In fact, for Chef Bonnety, this 5-item dessert course--which opens with a mild fruit starter and closes with an after-dinner sweet sampler--is the main course.

"The idea is to give something new to the market by mixing the dessert technique with the technique of the cooking," Chef Bonnety said. "I wanted to bring something new, not only dessert, but something which hasn't been seen before, to show that dessert is not only sweet and heavy on calories. I want people to be surprised, to see [that] dessert can be very different, light, refreshing, tasty. The sensation when you eat, that's the inspiration behind it."

The sensations Chef Bonnety referred to are the mix of hot and cold, the mixture of spicy, sweet and tangy flavors, and the various textures of ingredients.

Pan-fried strawberries, candied olive ice cream are just some of the ingredients that make up Bonnety's all-dessert dinner.

The 5-course dessert dinner

The amuse-bouche will whet your appetite.

The dinner menu began with Amuse-Bouche, a refreshing starter made up of avocado salsa with milk jam and spiced "arlette," a very thin pastry mixed with spices and sugar. Chef Bonnety said all it takes is a small bite of amuse-bouche to whet one's appetite.

What followed is a 5-course meal whose names alone can fire up your imagination.

* Tomato Confit with Balsamic Emulsion, Strawberry Salpicao with black pepper and candied olive ice cream.

Strawberry salpicao

Chef Bonnety said the candied tomato stayed in the oven overnight and was dried on a paper towel before plating. The strawberry was marinated in a mix of muscovado sugar and black pepper, and later topped with a serving of candied olive ice cream--that, only Chef Bonnety could've dreamed of making. A touch of pesto and a dash of black pepper finished off the chef's artistic treatment to this dish.

The interesting mix of the flavors of candied tomato and pesto added a delightful and surprising touch, enhanced even more by a cold serving of candied olive ice cream.

* Then came the Apple and Fig Tarte Tatin, salted caramel and a shot of carrot-coriander juice.

Apple and fig tarte tatin

Chef Bonnety prepared the tarte by making a mold of caramel and butter, topped with chopped apple and figs which he baked thrice over, drained until the apple absorbed the caramel flavor, which he then topped off with a layer of pastry, and warmed. He later chopped up some coriander leaves which he tossed into a cold pitcher of fresh carrot juice and poured into a shot glass.

* This dish was followed by another one made of Caramelized Asparagus with hot apple-ginger puree and red wine reduction--wine reduced with sugar and spices until it got a syrupy consistency.

Caramelized asparagus

* Panfried Strawberries with spices, herbs and balsamic vinegar came next.

Panfried strawberries and beer sorbet

The strawberry was fried with basil and tarragon for 10 seconds, and served with a scoop of Beer Sorbet. The warm-and-cold dish offered a veriety of textures and tastes.

* To cap off this all-dessert dinner, Chef Bonnety created another meal: the warm Chocolate Souffle made with quality Belgian chocolate, poached pear with star anise and raspberry red bell pepper sorbet, with which adventurous foodies can take a bite from a small basket of berries.

Chocolate souffle

And as a finale, Chef Bonnety offered sweeter concoctions: an after-dinner Dessert Sampler with a coconut-flavored treat, chocolate cherry sweet with mascarpone.

Dessert sampler

Spiced-up, low-calorie meal

Mainly vegetarian, the all-dessert dinner had no meat or fish, was low on calorie and involved very little sugar.

The dishes involved the use of cooking techniques applied differently, with ingredients varying from fruit, vegetables, sweets, spices and herbs.

"You have a whole meal. You don't feel hungry. People can eat without gaining weight," Chef Bonnety said.

A Frenchman, Chef Bonnety added that the interesting meal combinations are the result of years of experimentation with spices--the fascination for which he developed in the course of the five years he worked in India, the haven of spices in the East.

Surprising combinations

"It's so many years of experience pairing the spice. For me the spices are a plus on the dessert and cut down the sweetness. The combination of strawberry and black pepper is quite surprising. Combined with basil, balsamic vinegar [it] gives a very interesting taste.

Given the opportunity to execute his all-dessert dinner dream in the trendy Makati Shangri-La, he said the time was right to do it.

"The Filipino has a very sweet tooth and I want to show [him] a different way of making dessert. It was now or never."

Chef Bonnety said clients express a particular liking for the Apple Tarte dish, the Caramelized Asparagus with apple ginger sauce, and the Chocolate Souffle with raspberry and red bell pepper.

"It's both dessert and dinner. It's a surprise actually. The guests are very surprised with the presentation and with the taste. It's well received actually that's why were extending," he said.

The all-dessert dinner, initially offered from July 24 to July 31, will be served at Makati Shangri-La's Red Restaurant until August 11, 2010, from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

And fancy-served desserts as Chef Bonnety's dinner fare may be the eye-catching, and mouthwatering five-course meal--a delight to the senses, bound to satisfy more than just a sweet tooth craving.

Call Makati Shangri-La at (+632) 813-8888 ext. 7588/7599 for details.