Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Restaurant Hopping

In Which Lunch was an Incredibly Indulgent Affair…

Penne il Selvaggio
Penne il Selvaggio

I was going through the snapshots in my tablet gallery and managed to floor myself when I saw how many pictures – and just how many gastronomic shenanigans – I had yet to post onto the blog.  Between Holiday baking, Holiday cooking, a client event, writing, and meeting last-minute deadlines, I hardly had any time to blog in December.

But now, there is breathing space – just enough in which to squeeze in a post or so – and I am reminded of what the Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hayes said about life: that we taste it twice, once in the moment, and second on reflection.  That said, today’s post is about a rather savoury memory of lunch with my sister in early December before things got a little too hairy for comfort.

And so, to Cibo…

Funghi praga e crostini

We were both craving for something substantial and, because it was a rather chilly, cloudy day, it had to be fresh out of the kitchen; piping hot as much as possible.  You could never really go wrong with classic, homestyle Italian cuisine, and Cibo is one of those places where you can go beyond the usual Italo-American menus and into something closer to La Bella Italia.  This means that the food on your plate will be a glorious interplay of colours, textures, and flavours: delicate going to in-your-face bold, al dente playing up both crisp and soft, dark and light on a single plate.

To start the meal, we opted for one of the dips al forno, a baked dip/spread served with small, crunchy rounds of toast (crostini).  You can choose from one with spinach and robust Gorgonzola or a more vibrant one featuring broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes.  We chose the middle ground and went with the funghi praga, an earthy mix of roasted mushrooms, smoked farmer’s ham, and a mild, milky cheese.

It’s a nicely balanced dish: the mild flavour of the cheese serves as a background for the rich, earthy flavour of the mushrooms – a taste that is almost similar to truffles in its intensity.  The ham adds a smoky touch, an accent that brings all the flavours and soft texture together; spread on the crostini, it’s quite lovely.

I was craving pasta on this particular visit, but not something with standard-issue Bechamel or anything with a tomato-based ragu.  I wanted something something rich, unctuous; something whose savour bordered on obscene, really.  For that, the penne il selvaggio was the only choice.

Shown above, this dish features penne rigate tossed in a smooth, creamy, velvety sauce made by compounding liver pate with cream and sage.  Smooth and utterly luxurious with regard to its mouthfeel, the sauce coats the pasta beautifully, sinking and soaking into each piece through the ridges.  It’s a delicately meaty-tasting sauce with just the barest whisper of bitterness from the liver and a perky herbal hint from the fresh sage.

My only regret is that I ordered the pasta al dente; I should have opted for it to be a little softer so as to have made the dish more indulgent.

After all that richness, iced mint tea is a must.
After all that richness, iced mint tea is a must.

When everything’s been said and done, I was very happy with my meal and I felt sated, satisfied – and ready to take on the rest of the mad, mad month that ended my 2014.  As I sipped my mint tea and chattered about lighter topics with my sister, I felt ready to take on the world.



Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

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