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The Theoretical Cook


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sopa Ajo de Corriente at the Casino

We had a very late lunch at the Casino Espanol de Manila. We had the garlic soup: a winner. Im not sure what the stock is made of but the soup was very flavorful. It had slices of garlic, croutons, and eggs as thickener. I just wrote a kilometric blog but being the blogbobo that I am, I managed to delete the entire entry. Will try to regain the lost equilibrium when Ive rummaged through the doggie bag from the Casino. I feel like having another forkful of the jamon serrano iberico (strange, I read in another blog that there is a jamon serrano and a jamon iberico and the latter is cured longer. At the Casino, there is a jamon serrano iberico). Ayayay.

Food at the postcolonial Casino Espanol
(To resume...) We were served with a plate of the jamon serrano iberico - pink slivers of ham with a very clean, almost cheese-like taste. I was reminded of the aftertaste of really good chicharon. I guess it must be the umami, that distinctive taste of glutamate. We also had warm bread with butter. We asked the very nice waiter whether they baked bread too but he said no and gave us the address of the bakery (Village Breadhouse). When the waiter finally served us the pollo a la sevillana, we were already quite full and we could only stare at the chicken.
There is an old world feel to the Casino. George, the really nice waiter, has been with the Casino for twenty years. The guy has mastered his art: I could picture him as a butler in one of those silent, intense butler movies (what was the last good one? the Henry Jamesian one?) - genteel, silent, and dignified. George told us that the Casino has been around for 112 years! Truth is, if I hadnt learned that the Instituto de Cervantes had transferred in the area, I wouldnt have realized that the Casino Espanol existed at all.
A quick research reveals that there are many Casino Espanols in the country. Cebu and Iloilo both had casino espanols. From the descriptions given, the casino espanol is an Spanish social club, it must have been a very chichi club during the colonial period. Although a recent article says that these Spanish clubs are simply called 'casinos' eventhough no gambling really takes place, I also came across another article where the Casino Espanol de Manila is mentioned in relation to gambling. In the "Specifications of the Grievances of the Filipinos", described as the most important Document the Filipinos have issued, there was a specific complaint against the reward given to the 'cowardly and miserable' Peninsulars who abused their position, in particular the Peninsular Rafael Comenge, President of the Casino, who exacted certain amounts from the gamblers of Casino Espanol.

In postcolonial Philippines, stigma seems to have gone out of being President of the Casino and it seems to be a badge of honor to be part of the club.

Anyway, Im sure there are other interesting tidbits to be learned there. What I want to know now is: what changes have been made to their menu since the last hundrer years? Were the Spaniards of old also enjoying the slivers of jamon serrano iberico? Most probably. Now that is an item for archival research.

Buy good French bread at
Village Breadhouse
1149 Estrada St., Singalong Manila
Tel 523-7915


Blogger Marketmanila said...

Congratulations on your new blog...don't worry about deleting things...I did that for the first few weeks at least! Your photos are terrific...

9:55 PM  
Blogger Theoretical Cook said...

Thanks MarketManila! Im still trying to figure things out. I visit other foodblogs (such as your beautiful blog) for guidance.

5:49 PM  
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