This Is How To Throw The Ultimate Grill Party According To Chef Tony Boy Escalante
It’s not often that Chef Tony Boy Escalante makes the trip north from Tagaytay to cook for an appreciative crowd. But last February 27, Focus Global Inc. brought him and his crew from Antonio’s to the Penthouse of Twenty-Four Seven McKinley in BGC to create the ultimate al fresco grill party to welcome the summer.
Chef Tony Boy barely needs an introduction. His Antonio’s in Tagaytay continues to draw discerning diners thanks to its always excellent fine dining fare and meticulous service. And thanks to its breathtaking locale, it has also become a much sought after venue for weddings and other special occasions. At his other Tagaytay restaurants, Breakfast at Antonio’s and the Filipino-centric Balay Dako, you’ll be hard pressed to find a table, especially on weekends.
The secret to Antonio’s success is simply this—he loves to feed people; he knows how to throw a great party; and he always does so in style. If you’re thinking of hosting your own barbecue affair, here’s how to be inspired by Chef Tony Boy’s special touch.
Create a visual feast
As the saying goes, “one eats with one’s eyes.” Chef Tony Boy pays special attention to every little detail—the stiff starched napkins folded with a rosemary sprig, the assorted housemade spritzers in their own little bottles, the elegant calligraphy on the buffet cards; the white-on-white floral theme. While he usually keeps it simple (no fussy garnishes), his dishes always have that freshly made look, garnished with lively herbs, and most important, very appetizing. At the event, his soft tacos were a big hit, prepared to order right in front of you. With its squid ink batter, the Black Prawn Tempura Taco was a medley, not only of bright colors—orange chorizo mayo, red tobiko sauce, green cilantro, red pickled onions—but also of flavors and textures that somehow hit the right balance.
Go the extra mile with the grilled fare
Of course, we always love Pinoy pork or chicken barbecue with the usual marinade of soy, sugar, and calamansi. But Chef Tony Boy ups the ante with his grilled meats. Steaks, lamb, spit-roasted suckling pig, chicken, seafood—he knows how to play with seasonings and flavors that can withstand the intensity of the fire, and to work with the unpredictability of heat and temperature to produce grilled fare that is always spot on.
At the al fresco barbecue, the real stars of the meal were the grilled meats, starting with the Smoked Pork Ribs. Chef Tony Boy marinated them in whiskey, ketchup, brown sugar, tomato, Worcestershire sauce, spiked with cardamom to balance the sweetness. To complement the ribs’ smokiness, he grilled pineapple rings, dusted with cinnamon powder. Pineapples happen to make the perfect grilled fruit, hardy enough not to disintegrate in the heat, and able to retain much of its juicy sweetness. They were a lovely match to the ribs, which also came with Coriander Deviled Rice and ribs-worthy Corn Muffins.
For this event, Chef Tony Boy was so excited to cook up a feast that he decided to add a whole leg of lamb to the menu. He marinated the lamb leg for eight hours in a classic blend of rosemary, garlic, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, before roasting it on the rotisserie. For smaller parties, Chef Tony Boy likes to slice the lamb as one orders. But for this larger affair, the lamb was already sliced and served, slider style, on chili parmesan ciabatta buns and a spring onion salad. And for beef lovers, there were grilled beef sliders topped with caramelized onions and Gruyère.
Have the right gear for grilling
Chef Tony Boy made the most of the outdoor Wolf grill which features powerful gas burners under a layer of ceramic briquettes. As I watched him grill the ribs, he shared how much he likes the multi-functionality of this grill, “I can close it to make a grill oven. I can braise or do a casserole while barbecuing and doing the rotisserie.” Thanks to the grill’s individually contained burners, you can cook in different ways at the same time, and on the same grilltop. While Chef Tony Boy and his chefs are skilled enough to cook with live charcoal, for amateur or beginner grillers, the Wolf grill takes out much of the guesswork from working with a charcoal grill.
To truly bring the kitchen outdoors, Wolf also features built-in warming drawers that can keep grilled food warm while one grills. And they’re complemented by Sub-Zero refrigeration drawers to keep fresh food, raw meats, or cold drinks within arm’s reach while grilling.
Spoil your guests with choice
OK maybe you don’t have to follow Chef Tony Boy when he laid out not just one, but five incredible salads—summery Watermelon Feta Arugula, classic German Potato, American-style Waldorf, Mixed Mesclun, and Risoni Salad. Or maybe he didn’t really have to come up with a choice of six, count them, six housemade ice cream flavors, each one just as good as the other—Chef Tony Boy’s favorite Roasted Pistachio, my favorite Roasted Strawberry, Blackberry with Sage Cream, Salt and Pepper Caramel, Dark Chocolate, and silky smooth Panna finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. He had chocolate blocks in four variants—hazelnut dark, rocher, dark orange and ginger, and macadamia white chocolate—plus macarons in lemon, dark mint, and raspberry. His refreshing housemade spritzers came in dalandan rosemary, tarragon, and pomegranate rosemary. Not only were guests spoiled for choice, but this overabundance of options showed them that the host is generous to a fault.
Love what you do
Even if you’re not quite ready to do an Antonio’s-caliber production, this is the one thing to remember about throwing a party like Chef Tony Boy. Above everything, Chef Tony Boy loves to feed people. And the menu showed it, as he indulged guests with an embarrassment of dishes that elevated the experience and brightened the mood.
Wolf grills are exclusively distributed by Focus Global Inc., http://www.focusglobalinc.com
Photos by Chris Clemente