In a different life (yes, I am not completely consumed by cooking and allotments) I design the occasional website using a rather clever content management system called ProcessWire. The warm community that affectionately gathers around this very good bit of software often shares its latest creations; websites designed and developed for a plethora of interests from composers to artists, luxury villas to municipal sites, festivals to food.
Today, one particular site showcased by Julien Marie caught my attention; partly because of the good design but mostly because of the rather luscious looking leg of cured ham resting front and centre on the home page.
The Bow Tie Duck is a considered collection of irresistible offerings imported from choice suppliers in Europe into Manila, Philippines. It is far too easy for us in the west to assume that all peoples of the Orient only eat their own, amazing cuisine, but of course western influence in the style of the French, British and Portuguese goes back many generations and there is as much love of things European as we love their traditional offerings, albeit at an import premium possibly beyond the average salary.
“Our first job is to be the curators of your palate. We keep on travelling around the world, tasting and negotiating products for your pleasure.” A bold claim, especially from a company geographically remote from its suppliers.
But the range, while not huge, is manageable, and certainly the venture seems to be taking careful steps in introducing items that are at least familiar to both ex-pats and locals. Manila being many leagues from my home in the UK, I cannot assess its impact against the existing cosmopolitan market of the islands.
The food list is separated into three simple categories: The delicatessen is a small collection of mostly French sausages ranging from the familiar saucisson, a red label item which I assume will be something like Bastides, to the famous Morteau and a solitary Boudin. It will be interesting to see how this range is expanded with perhaps some of the more fiery Italian Genoan salamis or perhaps the best of the Spanish hams.
The Signature foods sections is unembarrassed by any idea of low cost. Foie Gras (becoming controversial now in Europe), Plougastel Oysters (flown in from the commune in Brittany I assume and nearly as good as some of the heartier British and Irish offerings), and of course, black truffells and caviar, are ready to bedeck the plates of those with more credit than sense.
But this is what this company is about. It is not about cheap imitations or quick food fixes, but is aimed at those that truly love those things that are otherwise so hard to find ten thousand miles from source.
The last section of the site offers a small collection of wines, all French from what I can see. I have not been through all of these, but wines such as Château La Croix Saint Estephe 2007 retail for around £15 a bottle in the UK and Domaine de Bonserine Côte Rôtie La Garde 2003, which is a delicious offering from the Syrah grape, sells for between £50 to £70 from a broker – so they are not weighting the list with inaccessible wines. They are also having to compete with companies such as Manila Wines and other companies that import large quantities. Alcohol, especially wines and whisky, from Europe is much sort after and the export market is buoyant and large.
This is a company who have a small list, but are keeping it exclusive and deliver to your door – and if the service matches the expectations of the well designed web site, then they will be a contender in a very competitive market. I wish them luck, even if they are just a little out of my way!