In our August interview, we learn a bit more about Larisse Espinueva, self-described “cakemaker/fondant warrior” and owner of Midnight Snacks Personalized Cakes & Pastries. While those accomplishments are more than impressive on their own, Larisse also finds time to write about delicious things on her blog, Larisse Gastronomique. I do enjoy a good pun as much as anyone, however (clever naming aside) what most attracts me to the site are her cake-decorating how-to’s that make the stunning effects she creates seem perfectly attainable to people like me who lack any innate talent in that area, and her vividly photo-chronicled restaurant reviews of establishments throughout the Philippines. We talked on subjects ranging from local specialty cuisine in her hometown of Parañaque to where her dream food tour would take her.
Flavorful World: What first attracted you to baking and customized cake decorating as a career?
Larisse Espinueva: Baking and cake decorating was not my first choice to be honest. I wanted to pursue my culinary career in the hot kitchen jumping from one cuisine to another. However, it was baking that led me to express my creativity with food. Through fondant cakes and pastries we are able to create any design for any occasion. There are nearly no limits to what art we can create with these pastries.
FW: Your blog describes you as “a big fan of cheese.” What is your favorite cooked dish that utilizes cheese as a component and why? What is your favorite uncooked dish that utilizes cheese as a component and why?
LP: Definitely, pizza! I think pizza is the most versatile dish you can put any type of cheese in and would still complement the other ingredients. Uncooked cheeses are best served together with cold cuts. Cheese and cold cuts platter is probably the nearest uncooked dish I can think of.
FW: Tell us about the most unusual cake customization request you’ve ever received.
LP: Aside from the “Steak” Cake I made a few years back, a regular client of mine asked if I could do a “Bulalo” themed cake with a 3D cartoon cow swimming in it. This was requested for the anniversary of their bulalo restaurant.
FW: Your blog features a number of recipes, covering every meal course from morning to evening. Tell us about a recipe of yours that featured one or more ingredients that you didn’t work with so frequently prior to creating that recipe. What made you want to try working with it? Have you worked the ingredient into any newer recipes?
LP: Ripe mangoes in a savory dish is something I rarely do. I had an urge to add it in my Spicy Tomato Sardines Pasta since I thought it would be a nice complement to the heat of the sardines. I have always been a Mango fan with desserts. I use it for cupcakes, cakes, no-bake cakes and even pair it with cottage cheese alone as a dessert.
FW: You appear to dine out often. What restaurant(s) are you most looking forward to visiting in the near future? What menu item(s) are you most excited to try, and why?
LP: As a frequent diner in BF Homes, I recently heard a lot of good recommendations from friends and online features about Spoon Eat + Drink. Their Grilled Watermelon and Peach Salad and Lemon Thyme Spiced Lamb Loin Chops are already catching my attention. For a not-so-near-future but definitely something I am most looking forward to visit is The Tasting Room. This acclaimed French restaurant with two Michelin Stars has an undoubtedly promising degustation menu.
FW: What local dish would you say Parañaque is best known for? Tell us about the best example of the dish that you have enjoyed in a restaurant, and what made that version the best.
LP: Paranaque has become one of the foodie destinations of the south. All of which with their own specialty and cuisine. I can’t say if what exactly our local dish is or if we even have one. However, an underrated restaurant in Paranaque, Daniele’s Casa Mia, along Sucat Road offers very authentic Italian food. We’ve tried their Caprese, Ravioli and Pizza. What makes it the best version of most Italian meals I’ve tried is the freshness of the ingredients and how humble it tastes.
FW: If money and geography were no object and you could easily and instantly travel anywhere in the world, what would your ideal one-day food tour consist of? Tell us what foods and beverages you would have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack, and in what global locales you would have them. What attracted you to those foods/locations?
LP: Breakfast would consist of Osteria Francescana’s Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano and Tortellini by Massimo Bottura. For brunch, EVERYTHING from Ferran Adria’s El Bulli. Haha! The 18-course meal in Gaggan by Gaggan Anand will be for lunch. Sushi from Sukiyabashi Jiro for dinner and lastly, as simple as it sounds, Orchard Road’s Ice Cream Sandwich. Too impossible for a whole-day meal plan or even for one stomach but it is one of my aspirations to travel and become wealthy enough to have the privilege to eat in one of these restaurants. What inspires me the most from these chefs is their passion, dedication to their food and their own culture and heart put into it.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
LP: I haven’t really thought about that until now. Hmm, maybe “The Always Hungry Girl” or something like “Keep Eating” are probably the best names to describe my gastronomic adventures.
FW: When you aren’t cooking/eating delicious things, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
LP: During my days off, I binge watch on TV series and movies. Aside from traveling, painting has also become my therapeutic hobby for a quick escape from reality.
*Note to readers: The end of this interview doesn’t have to be the end of your getting to know Pastry Chef Larisse Espinueva better. Catch her captivating custom cake creations at LarisseGastronomique.com. Follow them on Facebook. Eyeball them on Instagram. Gaze at them on Google+. Choose one, choose all; just don’t miss out on all the sweet things happening around this talented lady.