Inspired with and by Anna Olson

There was a buzz of excitement in the air when the doors of Sage Bespoke Grill in Makati Shangri-la opened to welcome the guests of the quaint affair for the night. The well-loved Canadian Chef, Anna Olson, has a new show entitled Inspired with Anna Olson, and will be shown in the Asian Food Channel (CignalTV channel 26) starting tonight, July 29, at 9pm. Touring Southeast Asia to promote the show, they finally reached their Philippine stop last July 15, 2016.

The event was really quaint, with just a few people from the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines, headed  by Ambassador Neil Reeder, some of our own Chefs whom Chef Anna had the collaboration with when she went to film her show here, also some food bloggers, and people from the Asian Food Channel, CignalTV, Canadian Beef, and other food sponsors.

Also included in the dinner were the winners from the CignalTV’s promo, where the winning subscribers get to meet and see the live cooking demonstration.I was one of the lucky CignalTV subscribers to win a slot for the dinner; so I was very excited! I fell in love with Chef Anna’s baking skills while watching her and learning from her as she explained the techniques behind the dishes she made! She quickly became one of my top favorite celebrity chefs, and when I found out about the promo by CignalTV, I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. 🙂

The evening started out with hors d’ oeuvres of maple BBQ chicken wings, mini bao with crab salad, and salmon tartare on cassava cake. The little bites were just enough to water everyone’s tastebuds. Everyone got seated when the program started, and Chef Anna started telling her experiences with going around different Southeast Asian countries, learning from local chefs and taking what she learned back home to create new recipes that are inspired by these things during her trips.

We were then treated to a really fresh and bright “Inspired” Chilled Chicken Pho Salad for our starter. I was intrigued with the sweet note that never really occurs to me whenever I eat pho. It’s usually the bright note I always taste to cut through the savory beef which is partly because of the cilantro and lime, but there was a sweet taste at the back of my tongue. I had the opportunity to ask her what it was when she went to our table, and she told us that it’s just honey and proceeded to tell us how she came about making the pho inspired dish. 🙂

We also had this velvety, rich Atlantic Lobster Chowder, and for the main course, Chef Michael, her husband, and Chef Anna demonstrated how to cook the Rosemary Roasted Canadian Beef with Balsamic Canadian Blueberry sauce, and our dessert the Lime Creme Caramel. Chef Anna said that the inspiration for the sauce was from the use of fruit for savory dishes by our very own Chef Claude Tayag and his Bulanglang. The Lime Creme Caramel was inspired by Chef Rob Pengson’s Tocino del Cielo. The steak was served with fluffy mashed potatoes and the wild rice pilaf and spears of asparagus, together with the blueberry sauce.

It was a feast for the senses, as we finally smelled the searing of the meat and the spices filling the air as Chef Michael made the steak. It was juicy and the tartness of the balsamic blueberry sauce was enough to cut through the savory beef. The Lime Creme Caramel was a pleasant twist to our local leche flan, and Chef Anna nailed my favorite leche flan texture: dense, creamy, rich with no air bubbles! I finished the creme caramel and wanted some more. It was that good.

But the Lime Creme Caramel wasn’t the only dessert. She did say, that she’s a pastry chef and whenever she had dinner parties at home, they would have at least two dessert dishes for her guests. And we had three more. They were coconut donut holes, chocolate macaroons, and rosette cookies. My sweet tooth was happy and content with the desserts. After the dinner, I wanted to badly hug the Olsons for bringing the television magic with them as we tasted what they cooked right before our eyes.

anna michael and me
Chef Anna Olson, me, and Chef Michael Olson after the event. Thank you so much for the photo, Ms. Fe!

It was, with the risk of being redundant, inspiring to hear someone who’s already teaching young chefs that she too, continuously learns and becomes inspired from her travels around the world. She was just full of light as she told us her love for calamansi or how she tells the story of her experience with each of the chefs she has worked with in the process of filming the show. I do hope she comes back here in the Philippines and I wish I can sit down and have a proper chat with her, one lover of life and food to another. 🙂

I also want to thank CignalTV for the opportunity to experience and be part of the event, and my wonderful seatmate that night, Ms. Fe Asuncion, who was so nice to actually offer to take my photo with the Olsons after the event was done and the people have fizzled out for the night. It was a very memorable and inspiring night. Here’s to getting more inspired and to more cooking and experimenting!