I don’t want to write an article about chocolate in the same way most people write about chocolate. I won’t mention the Aztec word, xocolatl (“bitter water”); and I’m sure you don’t need another article telling you what Theobroma means. It’s as tedious to read (again) as it is to write about it (again). These days, countless people regard themselves as chocoholics, and most understand the cacao percentages on a bar of fine chocolate.
Instead, consider this article as a guide to navigating your way through The Peninsula Hotel’s Chocolate Nights Weekend Buffet. This sweet spread is part two of the initial sweet indulgences that the hotel launched last Christmas, which was a dizzying success (undoubtedly credited to the theobromine-induced giddiness brought on by massive doses of chocolate). While some people rationalize about just how much chocolate one can eat anyway, to this you can almost hear the crowds crying out in reply, “More, more, more!”
Once you stand in front of the buffet, you feel a palpable sense of excitement rising inside you. Your hands are getting clammy, and you know you need to get your emotions in check. Your heart threatens to explode and if your mouth waters any more, you’ll need a saucer to catch the drool. Such is the effect of this chocolate buffet.
But you need a plan. The plan involves a progression from trying the subtle to the strong, and you need to leave space for some chocolate inebriation (but more on that later). Don’t think that you can just zip from one dessert to another. Ten minutes of that will leave you feeling overwhelmed, not to mention that after a while, everything will start to taste the same. Call it the chocolate crash and burn.
Portions are diminutive in this buffet. While those of us who prefer our food super-sized may scoff at such tea-party portions, this is helpful because you’ll want to sample them all. The desserts range from the richest chocolate concoctions imaginable to more simple treats like brownies. As such, there’s really something for everyone here. A variety of chocolate brands are used at the Pen. Less expensive chocolates are used for brownies, cakes, and cookies, because most chocolates tend to lose their flavor edge when baked or exposed to high heat. The more expensive chocolates with subtle flavor characteristics are used for the desserts that require little or no baking.
Heed the siren call of the chocolate fondue. Watch as the pastry chef ladles the languorous brown liquid into the white bowl, appreciating the stark contrast of brown on white. Spear chunks of fruit and cake into this liquid love. Consider making a sundae from the ice cream offered in the large silver receptacle. It’s made on the premises; sometimes it’s Double Dutch, other times it’s Rocky Road. Take your pick among the add-ins: miniature white and dark chocolate chips, slivered almonds. Dare you crumble some brownies sitting on the plate nearby into your sundae? Will you ponder the downright difference between spoonfuls of cold ice cream chased down with bites of the hot chocolate soufflé cooked on site? Oh, such delicious decisions must be made!
Now, catch your breath. Ruminate on your fate as you slowly sip on a Classic Lumumba (P295++), a hot chocolate spiked with cognac and whipped cream. Or nurse that brain freeze with another kind of freeze of the cherry chocolate sort (P150++): cherry brandy, dark crÃ¨me de cacao, chocolate syrup, dark chocolate ice cream, and cream.
Of course passing up the Peninsula’s famous pralines is like not having partaken of the Chocolate Buffet at all. These confections are made by seven hearing impaired girls in the appropriately called Chocolate Room of the hotel. White, dark, and milk chocolate are all ready to assault and then assuage your senses.
Take a breather from the full-on chocolate, and divert into chocolate with no purity of intentions: the orange-chocolate mousse served in sherry glasses and the mini chocolate crepes filled with black and white mousse. Who was it who said that only the purest have the best of intentions?
Now, nibble a while. Try the baked chocolate tarts artfully served on Chinese soup spoons. Nosh on the chocolate macaroons with their peek-a-boo pistachio filling. Small bites, big flavor.
You choose your finale. End in a blaze of chocolate glory with the triple chocolate gateaux or the warm chocolate fudge bread pudding and drown it mercilessly with the luscious crÃ¨me anglaise. If smooth is more your style, the bitter chocolate marquise or the milk chocolate terrine will slide down slow. White chocolate fans can have it all in a lush, rich cheesecake.
So to those who ask just how much chocolate one can eat anyway, well, nothing succeeds like excess.
Chocolate Nights Weekend Buffet Friday and Saturday nights, 8:30-12 midnight P495++ per person, inclusive of one coffee or tea Lobby of the Manila Peninsula Corner of Makati and Ayala Avenues, Makati City For reservations and inquiries, call 887-2888 ext. 2276/2139 (the Lobby)