I HAVE a special place in my heart for Chicago because it’s the first place that I got to visit when I went to the United States for the very first time in 1994. There was a conference on foster parenting and adoption going on in Chicago back then, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), then headed by Secretary Corazon Alma de Leon, invited me to go along with the group as a media observer. I was very new in the publishing industry back then, working for a weekly women’s magazine, and I had collaborated with the DSWD on several feature articles for the magazine prior to the invitation. I considered myself very lucky to have been singled out by the DSWD to go with their delegation on the trip. I learned a lot from the conference, as it opened my eyes on the harsh realities of Filipino children being given up for adoption by their parents for different reasons and it touched my heart that foreign couples, particularly Americans, adopted them, a number of whom even had disabilities, and loved them as their own. That trip also enabled me to visit my sister Julie, who lived in Los Angeles, California, and her family for the very first time.
So, when The Peninsula Manila recently celebrated Chicago via an intimate kitchen party and cooking class, I went and celebrated with them. The month-long celebration this November was in line with the stylish renovation of The Peninsula Chicago. To celebrate its grand comeback, The Peninsula Manila and its sister hotels worldwide decided to celebrate the spirit of Chicago for a whole month by presenting an exhibit of Hong Kong-based urban photography artist William Furniss’ bold, abstract images of Chicago’s skyline and landmarks and by offering special menus created by The Peninsula’s expert chefs featuring favorite dishes from The Windy City.
As part of its own Chicago celebration, The Peninsula Manila hosted an intimate media party in the hotel’s Banquet Kitchen, where Executive Chef Mike Wehrle and Executive Sous Chef Franco Diaz conducted a cooking class featuring Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Reuben Sandwich, and Prohibition Cocktails. We had a pizza and sandwich party along with the cooking class, and the barista turned out glasses upon glasses of Chicago-style Prohibition Cocktails—Hanky Panky, Monkey Gland and Gunner. They’re called Prohibition Cocktails because in the 1920s, Chicago was home to infamous gangster and prohibition-dodger Al Capone, and so themed cocktails were served. I “gunned” for the Gunner, since it was the only mocktail (cocktail without alcohol) among the three drinks, and enjoyed my Chicago Deep Dish Pizza with it.
To end the party on a sweet note, trays of mini Red Velvet, Chocolate and Butter Cupcakes and Cheesecakes with edible ‘Chicago’ signs on them were served.
For the bigger picture, guests of The Peninsula Manila for the month of November also got to see snippets of the Chicago lifestyle and taste the authentic flavors of Chicago. The Lobby served homemade versions of famous Chicago specialties, such as Chicago Hot Dog and Duck Hot Dog, Reuben Marble Rye Sandwich with Sauerkraut, Chicken Pot Pie and Salted Caramel Sundae. Escolta, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, had as part of its buffet spread select Chicago favorites like Chicago Deep Dish Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza, Poutine and an ‘Eli’ cheesecake rotation plus a Chicago Burger Station. Meanwhile, The Peninsula Boutique had ‘Eli’ Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Strawberry Cheesecakes and assorted cupcakes up for grabs.
With Celebrate Chicago serving as a festive gastronomic preview, the holidays now begin at The Peninsula Manila.