Lunch Date with Louie Da Costa
Why do you love Caffè Florian?
I enjoy going to Dubai International Financial Centre and love eating at Caffè Florian. It’s a little piece of Venice right here in Dubai. They bring this authentic Venetian atmosphere and cuisine (they fly in the ingredients too!) to the UAE and serve it at a very affordable price. What’s not to love?
What do you order when you eat there?
We’d always start things off with a caprese salad and the carpaccio with rocket and mozzarella salad. Then move on to their gnocchi – that’s purple! Or the ravioli stuffed with gorgonzola, pears and walnuts. I also love the chicken scallopini with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. We’d end the meal with their chocolate tortellini with vanilla ice cream. Yum!
What is your desert island dish?
Breakfast. I'm one of those people who could have breakfast for lunch, dinner and even as a midnight snack. So if I had to eat the same meal over and over again, I'd like sausages and eggs with some pancakes and hash browns on the side, please.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Cinnabons. I just light up at the thought of a warm Dulce de Leche Cinnabon smothered with pecan nuts. It goes straight to my arms, thighs and mid-section, but if you put a whole tray in front of me, I'd probably finish it anyway.
Do you have any special food memories?
If you're a Filipino, you'll definitely know what champorado is; a sweet chocolate rice porridge that's often served for breakfast. Like I said, I'm a breakfast person, so as a kid I would look for this champorado any hour of the day, to the point where I'd cry if I didn’t get it. So just to satisfy my cravings, my grandmother, who I called Nanay, would go find some cooked rice and put it in a cup of hot cocoa. It's weird, I know, but this ‘champorado à la Nanay’ served as my pacifier throughout my pre-school years.
Who is your food inspiration?
My hubby. It's embarrassing but when it comes to the kitchen, my husband could run circles around me. And what's great about him is he doesn’t need a recipe to make a great meal. He doesn’t even need all the ingredients. He could quickly work with whatever he finds in the kitchen, including leftovers, to make a dish that I would have probably taken hours to prepare.
What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten?
I think raw sea urchin, or uni sashimi, it’s slimy and looks more like something you'd spit out than swallow but, oddly enough, it is delicious. If I could find it here in Dubai, I would love to try it again.
In your opinion, what makes a perfect dining out experience?
Great company and good food is certainly important, but all of that could be negated by bad service. So even if the food isn't exactly top quality, if the staff are warm, attentive and they make you feel like you're getting special treatment, then it gets an A from me.
What do you like to cook at home?
Since my husband does more of the cooking than I do, whenever it's my turn I feel like I need to make something really special. So you'd find me watching Masterchef or copying dishes that we've tried in restaurants. Just this week I made my version of PF Chang’s lettuce wraps – using shrimp and tofu instead of chicken.
Who taught you how to cook?
My mum and I would bake stuff when I was younger but I didn’t really cook full meals until I got married. Even in the first few years of marriage, I couldn't fry an egg without burning it or having some of the shell in there. So if you get to taste anything I've cooked, my husband, Michael, is the person to blame.
What are your kitchen cupboard must-haves?
Do cereals count? I've got at least four boxes. If not, then Java Sauce. We use it for marinating or dipping, either way it easily adds flavour to your meat dish.
What is your foodie dream?
To be able to cook something worth putting on Masterchef!