La Chaine dinner in Cebu’s La Vie Parisienne

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Louis Thevenin, Michel Guinefolleau, Michel Lhuillier, Brian Connelly and Joward Tongco

The old Velez mansion along Gorordo Avenue in Lahug has been, for some time now, a complex that houses the Alliance Française facilities, the honorary French Consulate in Cebu, the French restaurant La Maison Rose and La Vie Parisienne, an outlet for self-service deli snacks and fine wines imported from France. And not to forget: the croissants, also imported half-baked from Paris.

In the evenings, La Vie is a sight of sparkling pink and white trees, with tables and chairs painted white spread out all over the garden. They are always filled. It helps that a parking lot has been put adjacent to it.

La Vie Parisienne was the venue for the latest fellowship dinner of the Cebu chapter of La Chaine des Rotisseurs. There to welcome one and all was the evening’s host Louis Thevenin with baili delegue for the Philippine Michel Lhuillier and his wife Amparito Llamas Lhuillier, baili of the Cebu chapter. They congratulated Louis for having contrived what seemed like a mist rising and descending from the slate roof. “Just like Paris,” they said.

Solicitous waiters passed around delicious canapes and constantly refilled champagne flutes with sparkling wine. “They’re good,” declared Amparito, “but we have to remember there’s a whole dinner awaiting—alright, one more, the last one.”

Her sister in law Angie L. Mathieu was in complete agreement.

Bethilda Smith came to sit beside me in the garden. We talked about the series of articles I had written about memories of Cebu in , Inquirer’s sister newspaper in the Visayas.

“So, Cebu has always been a vibrant place,” Bethilda commented. “Yes, it has always been hectic,” I said, recalling what a American diplomat in the 1970s said about Cebu’s social and business life.

“In Cebu, every night seems like New Year’s Eve,” he said, to which someone made the rejoinder, “and every morning is the morning after …”

Soon, dinner was announced and we all filed into the air-conditioned comfort of La Maison Rose which accommodated 50 diners. Michel and Amparito sat with Louis and the Marco Polo General Manager Brian Connelly and F&B manager Joward Tongco.

Also with them were Angie Mathieu, Mickey Paulson, Dr. Aden Kim and Kwin Cabahug, Stella Bernabe and Vilma Alcaraz who came from the Cebu-Israel Friendship day celebration at the Marco Polo.

Dr. Nestor Alonso gave the welcome remarks and reminded the company present about the rules that govern La Chaine dinners.

First on the menu were snails from Paris flavored with butter and garlic, followed by oysters, also imported from France, smothered with sabayon, foie gras and champagne. Lobsters were adorned with Cebu white cheese.

After the palate cleanser, there were native chicken lollipops from Michel’s farm in Carmen in northern Cebu. “These are the chickens we feed to the tigers,” said Michel, referring to the zoo he planned to open in Carmen before the year is over.

Two men held a large wooden board filled with French cheeses. You made your choice and the cheeses were carved out with dexterity and good sense of balance. Dessert was Don Papa ice cream with chocolate truffle trio of praline, champagne and hazelnut. Excellent wines were served throughout the repast.

Among those present at the dinner were Joji Alonso, Alma Mia Garcia, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith, Elena Palacio, Luis Echarry, Zenaida Chau, Linda Ong, Nico Velasquez and Philippe and Danielle Bodart.

More fellowship dinners will be scheduled by La Chaine in Cebu in the coming months. The anniversary gala in December will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

“Maybe we can plan something at the Shangri-La in Mactan,” Michel said as he informed the group that Louis’ wife,
Honeylet, will join the resort as events manager.

Honeylet used to be with the Makati Shangri-La before she got married.

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