, FEBRUARY 6, 2007 (STAR) LIFE & STYLE By Millet M. Mananquil - There are many things I want to do while I am in an airplane: 1) Have a foot spa and pedicure; 2) Be lulled to sleep with a relaxing massage; 3) Read books that have piled up on my night table; 4) Watch movies that I have missed or donít want to miss; 5) Eat only food that I really want to eat.

We have yet to a see a spa in the sky, so the first wish remains a fantasy. As for the second, have you tried those fantastic airplane seats that give you a massage at the push of a button? The third and fourth are okay, do-able. As for the last, you and I know airline food is not always that heavenly even if youíre up there amid the clouds.

Fortunately, the better airlines in the world make an effort to make flying a pleasant dining experience as well. Our very own Philippine Airlines, for instance, is one of the most creative when it comes to in-flight meals. So when Babsie Aragon of PAL told lifestyle editors that something special was cooking at the Tin Hau of Mandarin Oriental, we flew there faster than an Airbus.

On the table was a spread of delectable Chinese food, served on airline trays. Hmm, they looked good and had that freshly-cooked aroma. My personal choices (being a non-meat eater) were the Steamed Sea Bass in Abalone Sauce with Dried Scallops for my main dish and the Chilled Almond Beancurd with Lily Bulbs for dessert. The sea bass was divinely tasty and tender, and that alone was enough for a good meal. We had a bit of the other desserts (the Filipino craving for leche flan and sapin-sapin will not be disappointed with Tin Hauís desserts similar to these) but the chilled almond beancurd was too refreshing and tempting.

"Welcome to our Chinese food festival in the sky," Babsie said as we checked other food choices that passengers will be treated to in this culinary offering by PAL and Mandarinís Tin Hau from February to November this year: Honey Ginger Chicken, Wok-Fried Spareribs with Black Pepper, Poached Seafood Marinated in XO Sauce, Wok-Fried Prawns with Chinese Cream and Butter Sauce, and Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Leeks in Shao Xing Wine.

"The first time we had this special feature with Tin Hau was during the whole month of September 2006.We received positive and very encouraging feedback from our valued customers, so we decided to run it again with a wider and better selection of Chinese dishes and longer duration. We sincerely believe our customers will enjoy this special feature," explained Felix J. Cruz, PALís vice president for marketing support.

PAL executive chef Ian McKenzie smiled when I asked him to describe the Filipino palate.He replied: "Filipinos generally like their food salty, possibly with soy sauce." So I said: "Hmm, this sea bass tastes just right for me." I asked, "So do you try to please the Filipino taste mostly?"

Chef McKenzie quickly answered: "No, I please myself first. The food has to pass my standards." Otherwise, he laughed, he will get the worst feedback a chef can get: Shoot the chef!

Kiss the chef! PALís Chinese food festival in the sky tastes good. I am looking forward to more dishes with broccoli, tofu and mushrooms. But after dessert, I will still be dreaming of a foot spa.

* * * E-mail the author at milletmananquil@yahoo.com.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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