From Hummus to Ginataan, With Love

Last weekend was like a food fest of sorts. A long-planned company reunion was set at my former boss' beautiful home down South.  This proved to be a memorable gastronomic experience for all of us who came to the party as we got to sample an array of local and exotic dishes, all made with love!

It's been years since I last tasted these well-loved dishes prepared by my former boss. And as expected, they're the most-requested by "ex-agency cast members", myself included, of NHAI.  During our years at the agency, company parties at her home were made more memorable by the food she serves. For our recent reunion, only the best was laid out from the house of Harel, from hummus to ginataang halo-halo.

Believe me when I say that everything we had for lunch, and even merienda (snack) of Filipino and Middle-Eastern specialties at the get-together were all so delicious!  I still have a hangover from all those yummy eats, and I'm craving as I write and see these dishes all over again!  So let's all salivate together with this photo essay... feast your eyes on these delectable epicurean delights -- truly a labor of love from our beloved mamá.

Let's begin with this perfectly thick and creamy, Hummus. This is a popular Middle Eastern side dish made of chick peas (garbanzos), garlic, and crushed sesame seeds.

Warm Pita -- this typical Mid-East pocket bread is best eaten with humus and kebab. It's great as it is, or spread with cream cheese if you can't make humus! :)

Juicy and tender Lamb Kebab made from minced meat with spices, it goes very well with humus and pita. Look, a complete meal on their own, and we're just on the appetizers!  I wanted more kebab but there were too many dishes waiting to be devoured.

Crunchy sweet camote chips (sweet potato) "imported" from Tarlac province, for pica-pica.

Burekas is cheese pie with feta and cheddar filling, sprinkled with sesame seeds. This is one of my personal favorites, and my kids loved it at first bite! Scrumptious. Addictive.

While building my appetite with the starters, I can't help but notice the beautiful details around the home and table setting for this sumptuous feast.

Look up and you'll see an elegant chandelier setting the mood...

a cheery centerpiece of bright red rose petals from the garden, set floating in a bowl of water...

and a lovely place setting of fine china and silver flatware on clean, white embroidered linen.

Time for the main event!

Mixed greens, Kare-Kare (cooked by Mrs. H's mom), spicy Buttered Chicken (Turkish chicken stew recipe of Mrs. H's son).

There was also Mrs. H's famous Chicken-Pork Adobo, recently featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, placed right in front of me and yet I completely forgot to take a photo of (smacks self on the head)!!!  I promised myself I'd attempt to replicate it (fingers crossed) at home... soon.

The colorful salad was a refreshing mix of arugula, lettuce, cucumber and cherry tomatoes, topped with mandarin oranges and walnuts. Drizzled with special basil dressing -- fresh basil, anchovy, olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard, this one was a delight to the senses!

My first time to try this delish Baked Lamb Couscous made with semolina boiled in lamb broth, topped with vegetarian sauce -- onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, bell pepper and corander, spiced with turmeric, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne; yoghurt and lemon. Garnished with fried onion rings. A winner in my book!

Rich and flavorful Kare-kare with chunky meat and veggies in home made peanut-annatto sauce, and bagoong (shrimp paste) on the side.

Mrs. H took care of the appetizers and main dishes while we had pot-luck of desserts. There was an assortment of pastries to satisfy our sweet tooth.

I always leave room for desserts so I was able to taste of all these treats! Too bad I missed some of the names of these decadent cakes like that one up on the left, which was an instant hit with it's moist caramel(?) flavor and crunchy nut topping. I learned it was from Pasteleria Ilustrado. The jelly above is called Cathedral Window Gelatin, and classic Egg Pie (below), were my contributions, both from local favorite Goldilocks Bakeshop.

Also present were Becky's Kitchen bestsellers -- lemon squares and brownies... and more chocolate cakes and brazo de mercedes (baked merengue with thick custard filling).

After a hearty and satisfying Pinoy and Mid-Eastern buffet, restless kids (they were only 3 present) took turns "playing" the piano.

A NHAI party would not be complete without a round of bowling, so off we went to the clubhouse after lunch.  I used to be "somewhat good"at bowling. Now I suck! LOL!  Did I mention this was a reunion? It's been years since I last stepped on a bowling alley so I rolled a few gutter balls before I finally hit a strike! Yesss!  No competition here, just was pure fun!

Of course the kids had a blast, especially for my little ones -- it's their first time EVER on a blowing alley, and to hold and carry an actual bowling ball. "It's too heavy mommy", they chorused. So now they know.

We were supposed to leave after a set of bowling, but Mrs. H insisted we go back to her house for some snacks before heading home.  As soon as we arrive, a spread of savory afternoon snacks were waiting for us. Chow time again! 

There was Dinuguuan at Puto (boiled pork and innards in pig's blood, with steamed native rice cake -- it tastes way better than it sounds, I swear!).  I would have eaten a bowl myself but I'm watching my cholesterol levels so I skipped this one.  Instead, I cheated with a very small serving of pasta with taba ng talangka sauce (crab fat)another heart-clogging delicacy (not in photo).  Sorry, I can't resist this one!

Finally, a sweet ending to this food extravaganza -- a warm bowl of Ginataang Halo-halo. A favorite Filipino snack or dessert made with mixed tubers, fruits, tapioca, glutinous flour balls, cooked in coconut milk. A real comfort food.

Nothing beats home-cooked meals enjoyed in the company of good ol' friends! Truly a day to remember. It was great catching up with all these lovely people, and a big thanks to our host for welcoming all of us into her home. 

'Til the next NHAI reunion! Shalom!

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