As someone who recently just learned to love cooking, I am constantly on the lookout for realistic and yummy recipes (hello, You Tube). I have a few generous friends who love sharing tips and techniques. My parents also stayed with us for the past three months, so I learned how to cook meat in a tender and juicy way from them. Finally!
You wonder why it took me four decades to learn how to cook. I just never had an interest in it. As a child I was told to stay away from the kitchen because it was dangerous. Growing up in Toronto, my chore was washing the dishes and sorting laundry. My brother was the one who loved cooking, so I willingly gave way to him. As an adult, I found it easier to buy good meals or hire a helper who can cook. Last year, however, I found myself without any help. So instead of panicking I started to cook – three meals at a time. The results were more than edible. It got rave reviews from my husband and children. So that’s how I got started. It also helped that I already had my dream kitchen.
Some people are just born a natural at cooking. Bettina Lopez Osmeña is one of them. “I learned to cook when I was around 15,” says Bettina. “I used to attend the cooking classes of Sylvia Reynoso. Her sister Lorrie who is a Cordon Bleu graduate elevated my cooking and taste level. She has become one of my very good friends today after 40 years of friendship. She is a cooking instructor in a top culinary school in NYC.”
Before I met Bettina personally last year, I knew of her, not just as the wife of Senator Serge Osmeña, but as the woman who shared an amazing recipe for Iberian Chicken in Rica de Jesus’ blog. Recently, Bettina started a home-based business meant for busy people who appreciate good food, yet don’t have time to cook. She began selling her home-cooked meals in frozen packages at the Dasmariñas Village Bazaar. It did so well, it is now a regular thing. The next Dasmarinas Village Bazaar is this Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18 from 10 am to 6 pm. And for times when there is no bazaar, you can simply call +63 998 569 6849 and order Bettina’s food. Check out Gourmet Corner in Facebook.
Bettina saw a need in the market. She says a lot of people are living alone in condos — they love to eat good food but it’s not like they have time to make beef stew for four hours. Bettina is a believer in the “slow food” process. She takes no short cuts. I asked her if this was for taste or health reasons, “I cook slow food because it tastes better. Health consciousness just followed. For example, the base of my sauce is real beef broth that has been slow simmered for several hours. No Knorr cubes for me and it makes a difference in both taste and health.”
Then there is the issue of staffing the home. A lot of young families I know (including ours) are having a hard time finding a cook who would stay on. I’ve given up on finding an experienced cook and taken matters into my own hands, as it should have been in the first place. However, I cannot cook all three meals every single day. I work. For busy mothers like me, Bettina’s product is the perfect solution. “There are a lot of restaurants and outlets that sell ready-cooked Filipino meals. There are diet food delivery systems. But very few do good quality, slow-cooked continental food,” says Bettina. Soon she will also offer vegetarian dishes.
At the time of my visit, there were four helpers who did all the food preparation. I asked Bettina if having Gourmet Corner changed the logistics and schedule of her staff. Of course it did. And it also increased their pay. So everybody is happy.
After hours of careful cooking and preparation, the meal is properly portioned (by weight) into these freezable packs. Bettina says you can store the cooked meal in your freezer for up to three months. She doesn’t recommend the use of microwave ovens for reheating. You can simply defrost the meal in your refrigerator a day or two before you intend to eat it, then heat it in a stove top… the old-fashioned way.
Bettina’s staff demonstrated how they make spaghetti sauce using canned cherry tomatoes from Italy. Bettina supervises all the cooking, and does the seasoning herself. The staff carefully follow the recipes she has written in a plastic clear book. There is a digital weighing scale to measure every bit of ingredient. Like I said, she’s got it down to a science.
For Gourmet Corner, Bettina only uses top-quality ingredients like these canned cherry tomatoes from Italy, exclusively imported by her company, Euro Fine Foods Specialist.
She does not compromise on the ingredients. Everything is top quality. The cans bear the seals of Italian and European organizations that certify the tomatoes come from organic farms and are of the finest quality. The only reason it doesn’t have the “certified organic” seal is because these are not even sold in the U.S. yet.
With this ragu sauce, you won’t see any ground beef. All her meats start out as real chunks, cut up into small strips and cubes. And because they are slow cooked for hours –four to five hours– the beef ends up naturally falling apart into smaller pieces.
No beef buillons for Bettina. In addition to real beef stock, she uses an all-natural stock from jamon serrano! This Aneto broth and the above-mentioned cans of tomatoes are exclusively distributed by her company, Euro Fine Foods Specialist.
As a result of frequent trips to Europe, in 2011 Bettina and a friend set up a full-time importing business, Euro Fine Food Specialist.
The first product they imported was Marchesi de Frescobaldi Laudemio Olive Oil, one of the finest olive oils in the market. Then they brought in pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, truffle oils, butter and such. Check out their Facebook page in links I posted above.
Here’s what the frozen meals from Gourmet Corner look like. The meals can stay in your freezer for up to three months, as long as it’s totally frozen. A day before using, you may bring the container up to the fridge to thaw.
I served Gourmet Corner’s Ragu to my family and they absolutely loved it. Bettina calls it “grown-up bolognese”. She wasn’t sure my kids would love it. But they all did. Looks like we will be regulars. We also had Korean Beef Stew. It was so good, I forgot to take photos of it.
For complete menu and schedule of pop-up sales, check out Gourmet Corner in Facebook. To order call +63 998 569 6849.