Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mood-altering dinner

"We're all dressed up with nowhere to go," Gilda Cordero Fernando said yesterday afternoon as I sipped hot chocolate and scooped warm fresh pinipig from the same cup in her bedroom slash work room. To me being with her, listening to her reminisce and opine made enough of a destination for the day. She'd have none of that--she was determined to leave the premises of her abode with her cane and wheelchair which she calls her kariton. The movie we had wanted to go out and watch, The Dressmaker, wasn't showing anymore.

She booked us for an early supper at Van Gogh Is Bipolar on Maginhawa Street, Sikatuna Village. She prodded me to think of persons we could go out with and have a relaxing dinner. "At short notice?" I asked, incredulous.

On top of me is a Tunisian hat, a fake crown on King Jetro, a copy of the Miss Universe crown on Carole, something from Mongolia on Nash and a muffin hairband with the word "Happy" on perennially happy Gilda.

But young writer Nash Tysmans and her mother Carole were available. So that was how we found ourselves at a subdued Mad Hatters' Party at Van Gogh with a pastor serving as our waiter and owner-chef Jetro Rafael by our tableside, keeping up a running commentary on the dishes served and the restaurant's new daytime thrust as a mood-altering tea sanctuary.

Jetro and Nash show different ways of pouring tea. Nash takes hers seriously. She went all the way to Darjeeling district in India to study tea and got thoroughly sunburned during her apprenticeship there.

My turmeric tea with honey came from the uppermost pot and was served encased in elegantly filigreed silver. You'd surmise that food and drinks served this well would up the cost of the bill, but no. Van Gogh Is Bipolar has Quezon City rates, meaning, highly affordable for writers, especially poets, scholars, artists and similar vagabond spirits.

The beauty of choice for post-prandial tea: You get to choose from Jetro's collection of teapots. Unlike other art and knickknack collectors who keep their collections for their private enjoyment only, Jetro enjoys sharing his. Nothing in his home restaurant is only for show. Everything is meant to be used.

While more commercial cafes and tea salons would practically shoo you off if you're just availing of the free Wifi and have consumed your minimum one cup of coffee or tea, Van Gogh seeks to attract souls in need of silence and healing in the daytime hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can avail of the Wifi but better if you take a break from the use of electronic gadgets by lying on a hammock reading from the book swap library, sipping tea that will address any negative mood at the moment (confusion, anger, panic, depression), doing art (art materials are provided free) or just wandering in the pocket garden.

There truly is something about the way Jetro prepares his meals that calms you down. He described the meat as "free range," the fish "wild." And I, like the fox in The Little Prince, felt tamed. All these things happened in a venue that has been named by a network or an international magazine as one of the coolest homes in Asia.

Enhancing the already rich ambience was the auditory pleasure of listening to chansons by Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel spinned from an old long-playing record player with an antique case picked up from Jetro's European travels. They threw me back to Thursdays in my youth in the '70s.

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