Farah Tolentino-Ylagan is a die-hard Francophile. She thinks and speaks in French and she’s a chef who trained in Paris and received her certification there as well. When I meet her, she tells me that my Paris posts brought tears to her eyes.
A Filipino through and through whose heart is in France, Farah finished her college education in Paris with a major in hotel management. A summer in between semesters landed her at Ledoyen, a restaurant gastronomique along the Champs-Elysées. She began with office work and later on, was invited by the restaurant’s Michelin-starred chef to do kitchen “tasks.” Holding her own against an all male staff, Farah recalls, “I got really O-C (obsessive-compulsive) from being there,” and liked working in the kitchen so much that nine months later, she enrolled at the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine FranÃ§aise, a top culinary institute in Paris.
Coming back to Manila just a few years ago, Farah worked the line at the Intercon’s Prince Albert for two years. After a few consultancies and a brief fling with a restaurant venture, she started Le Canard d’Or, which is now on its fourth year. Why a business centered around fattened liver? “I love to eat foie gras. I love foie gras,” she says, almost breathlessly, her hands grabbing pockets of air as she struggles to verbalize her passion to me. I understand completely.
Foie gras, which means ”˜fat liver,’ can be either that from a goose or duck. Farah prefers duck liver because “…it’s tighter, more firm.” She imports whole lobes that she cleans, seasons, and then cooks in either of two ways: fresh (mi-cuit) terrine, or foie gras poached and marinated in red wine, which she declares, “… has to be super rich in tannins and French because I’m loyal.” A red wine that she likes and uses often is Domaine de La Remejeanne – Les Chevrefeuilles Rouge 2004, Cotes du Rhone AOC.
The duck foie gras terrine (P1,550) gleams from its little container, its covering of fat moistening and protecting its precious treasure underneath. It’s enough for two, three, or four people ”“ but I swear that I can polish off the whole thing by myself. It’s as smooth as melted butter on the tongue, and so subtly seasoned that I can’t identify a particular spice. It’s arresting. And when I smear a touch of some of the terrine on some country bread (yeasty, slightly acidic), the taste pronouncement is startling.
The other foie gras is cooked au torchon (P1700), which is the classic way: fresh foie gras is wrapped tightly in muslin and briefly poached in red wine, staining it a dramatic red. It reminds me of a squat sausage, an expensive, squat sausage. My sharp knife cuts through it cleanly, revealing a sleek golden pÃ¢té with striations of pink and yellow coursing through its creamy inside. A small forkful lingers in my mouth tasting of earth, then dissolving with a whisper of butter and oil. I don’t care that this is fattened duck liver. I don’t care what it is. My heart has stopped beating and I’m about to fall over myself with pleasure. I really should be sitting down.
Farah also offers escargots (P750/dozen; P2,200 w/ basket, fork, tongs, and plate), snails, a similarly exalted delicacy on the French scale. Prepared Ã la bourguignonne with butter from Normandy, chopped parsley, and lots of garlic, it’s difficult to think of a better use for sopping up crusty bread. Silly me photographed the snails fresh out of their package, but it’s a magnificent sight to behold them hot from the oven, the butter lazily trickling from the shells. Eat the escargots on an escargotiÃ¨re or snail dish, which has little depressions to hold each shell. Barring that, the snails are just as attractive served on a bed of rock salt. Of course it’s the height of sophistication as well to eat these with the aid of escargot tongs, a little hinged spring mechanism that holds the slippery little sucker in place as I lift the delicate snail with my escargot fork into my open mouth. Man, in my next life I want to be French.
Le Canard d’Or
See www.lecanarddor.com for gift packaging and contact details.