Every two weeks or so a group of people gather in a tastefully decorated Williamsburg home to sample authentic, home-cooked meals mostly commonly consumed in the Philippines, but in true North Brooklyn fusion fashion, prepared with a twist – a Spanish twist at that, building on the colonial heritage of the nation on the South East Asian island nation.
The meals, titled Kulinarya: A Taste of Philippine Cuisine, are the result of the inventiveness of Filipino chef, Minnie Puno, who moved from Indonesia to Williamsburg two years ago.
Puno says her dinners are a modern take on Filipino cuisine, which places a high premium on presentation, and each of her dishes is painstakingly crafted with attention to minute details. Furthermore Puno has played around with Spanish influences while creating her signature dishes. Some of the dishes Puno has served at her dinners include Adobo in PandeSal cups – a vinegar and soy sauce stewed chicken served with Sofrito; and Sinigang Rice with Broiled Pork and Green Chili Pepper. The pork is cooked in tamarind and the rice is made paella-style.
Puno teamed up with EatWith, an online platform that pairs chefs of varying skill range with avid diners for a broad range of home-cooked-meal experiences. EatWith serves people in over 32 countries, and has already received 5,000 applications from eager chefs to be a part of their database.
Puno made the cut.
“Filipino cuisine is usually presented buffet style and there isn’t an emphasis on the presentation,” said Puno. “I wanted to do something different. For me, you eat with your eyes first, and of course it has to taste as good as it looks as well. I’m trying to introduce my own take on Filipino cuisine.”
Puno’s skills come with extensive training. She has been cooking since she was a kid, growing up in Manila, Philippines. Some of her fondest memories include cooking beef patties and pork chops as part of her cooking classes in grade school as well as helping out with her family’s annual Christmas meals.
Before moving to New York in 2012 she hosted private dinners in her hometown, but said she didn’t get to experiment as much. She moved to the Big Apple to be closer to her daughters, one of whom is currently studying here.
She took a class at the International Culinary Center to build on her experience, which has included cooking-class stints in Tuscany, Italy and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
At first, her dinners were about cooking home-cooked meals for her daughters and their friends. And that’s where the idea for Kulinarya bore fruit.
Puno said she chose to live in North Brooklyn because it matched her sensibilities – a focus on small, dining settings even at local restaurants, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the absence of the Manhattan hordes.
Her dinners have become an instant hit in Williamsburg.
“Minnie was an amazing hostess!” wrote Rachel on Puno’s EatWith page.” Her food was exceptional, her apartment impeccable and the atmosphere delightful. I’d never tried Philippine cuisine before, and am so glad I signed up for this meal. Not only was it delicious, but I learned a lot about Philippine culture and cuisine as well.”
But unlike most other entrepreneurs keen on quick expansions, Puno doesn’t plan to open a restaurant any time soon. In fact, she relishes the idea of being able to craft her meals at home, and serve them to a small group of people she can interact with over the course of the meal.
“I just want to be able to share what I love doing with people other than my family,” she said.” When you have to do it as chore it ruins it.”
To book a spot with Puno visit http://www.eatwith.com/#!/host/5851 to make a reservation, $40 suggested donation.
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