An inspired little take-away place plus the cheapest and best little shrimp rolls my heart could want.
When I interviewed Ginny de Guzman last November for a magazine feature, we met at her new place called Gustare. Italian for “to enjoy,” she tells me, Ginny founded Sugarhouse, a place she’s sold and since moved on from. She’s transferred her energies to consultancy work and more importantly, to Gustare, her commissary that she describes as, “… something very New York because I love New York. It’s a deli, a take-away.”
- Crack Pie cross-section
I’m familiar with Sugarhouse, so I immediately feel right at home at Gustare. For one, the contents in the chillers are like old friends, Sugarhouse originals I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid: the famous French apple pie, lemon meringue tart, turtle pie, etc., and there are some new things too, edible promises to tempt and please, like the pavlova and the aptly-named Crack Pie, a riff off Momofuku’s insanely popular dessert that I’ve actually baked in my own kitchen and that I concur tastes like, “A pecan pie without the nuts.” Ginny states that “We try to make new desserts and change every so often. All for take away.”
- Oriental chicken salad, one of my favorite things at Gustare
Some people have difficulty wrapping their heads around Gustare’s take-away concept. There’s one large rectangular table in the center of the room lorded over by tall acrylic shelves proferring jarred goodies – caramel popcorn, meringue kisses, and granola among them. Some steps away, mixers whir and bakers move with the cool assurance gained from confidence and repetition. Ginny insists that Gustare is a commissary, not a restaurant, something she states when people ask why she only has one table. “We offer home-style food here at Gustare that we encourage people to take home,” she explains. “It’s inspired home cooking.”
Walk-ins are most welcome to eat at the long, lone table but there’s a good chance they’ll eat out of the plastic containers the food is packaged in. (Of course they’ll heat up your food). It’s not such a bad deal really, when I consider the victuals offered: arroz con pollo (paella), beef stroganoff, pot roast, as well as ravioli rolled and made on the premises. I rootle in back of the chillers and in addition, I see mashed potatoes and pot roast, callos, steak and mushroom, and by now, they might have already introduced their Asian curries and roti. The possibilities are exciting, potentials for a dinner bought and brought home. It certainly beats instant noodles from the convenience store. And who can resist all those pleasurable possibilities for dessert?
Unit D Ground Floor, W Tower
39th street North Bonifacio Triangle. (Same building as The Goose Station and within the vicinity of I.S. and the British School).
Gustare Kitchen Fanpage on Facebook
Kowloon House’s Shrimp Bacon
In the early years of our marriage, my Bin and I lived not too far away from Kowloon House on West Avenue in Quezon City. We ate there often, lured by the siren song of the same stuff: siopao, siomai, and an odd but quaintly comforting dish called shrimp bacon (P260).
Now, Kowloon House is not a premier Chinese restaurant, it’s certainly not fancy. But what it might lack in sass and posh, it more than makes up for in the candor of its cuisine. As I mention in the first post of this series, sometimes all I want is for food to speak to me straight; there are times I haven’t the patience to tease out flavors and analyze them in my mind.
The shrimp bacon is one such dish that fits the bill. It’s processed shrimp meat fashioned into sausage shapes around which is wrapped a strip of bacon. These little “wieners” – if you will – are then cosseted in a cringe-inducing, cholesterol-raising sauce made from condensed milk, fruit salad syrup, and mayonnaise. Variations of this dish can be found at other Chinese restaurants under the names hot prawn salad, shrimp fruit salad, hot seafood salad and whatnot.
This is a dish best enjoyed when one leaves his/her inner food critic and carefully-honed foodie persona at home. There’s so much I like about this shrimp bacon. For one, the name cracks me up, appealing as it does to my grammar geek — there are prepositions missing from that phrase as well as carefully-placed articles of speech. More importantly, I’m in love with the soft bitey-ness of the faux shrimp, its compact character and the way the processed shrimp flavor ricochets off the bacon and ratchets up the saltiness within. Dipped then drowned heavily in its white blanket, it’s ravishing with rice.
Just don’t eat it when you’re feeling like a food writer.
16 West Ave., Quezon City
372-3685 to 92 loc 102-104