Crackling pork bagnet, paella Valenciana, spicy shrimp gamberetti and classic Caesar Salad were served and they were big hits.

In the Philippines, Christmas starts when the -ber months begin and since it is already September, The Cravings Group is jumpstarting the festive season via A Merry and Bright Christmas. It’s the restaurant chain’s offerings for the upcoming season, including catering packages, take-home party food trays, cakes, desserts and bakeshop items, hampers and other gift options that are designed to make the holidays a hassle-free and truly relaxing celebration instead of a hectic and stressful one.

These offerings were unveiled through a media presentation at C3 Events Place and Restaurant in Greenhills last 4 September. The place was transformed into a party place set — designed for a festive celebration like Christmas and savory party dishes were laid out in a buffet spread as well as served at the table.

DARK Belgian cheesecake will delight guests.

“We have perfected the taste of our food over the last 30 years that we have been in operations, so now we want to master the party experience with new themes that cannot be found anywhere else,” says Bea Guerrero Trinidad, operations head of The Cravings Group.

Business development and strategy officer Pia G. Trinidad adds: “This year, we have two exciting additions — the modern and chic catering setups and the delicious tapas-style cocktail food. We not only deliver proven Christmas party recipes, but most importantly our team works closely with organizers and companies to create memorable events.”

THIS bread pudding with chocolate sauce is made from an heirloom recipe.

For catering services, The Cravings Group offers four premium and unique themes for private parties: Cider, Tangerine, Rust and Ochre. Talented chefs from the group’s culinary school, the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) Manila, will take care of the food.

But if clients simply want good food delivered for Christmas get-togethers with friends, take-home party trays good for 10 to 12 persons include lengua con champignon, chicken galantina, chicken cordon bleu, roast beef with mushroom sauce, paella mixta, four-cheese lasagna, spicy shrimp gamberetti, classic meatballs spaghetti, pasta paella, classic Caesar salad and Austrian potato sausage salad. Prepared for bigger crowds to enjoy are Roast turkey with chestnut raisin stuffing (good for 20 to 25 persons), salt-crusted fresh salmon (good for 30 to 40 persons) and crackling pork bagnet with arroz Valenciana or truffle rice (good for 15 to 20 persons).

PAELLA Valenciana is a very festive table fare.

During the recent media launch, crackling pork bagnet, paella valenciana, spicy shrimp gamberetti and classic Caesar salad were served and they were big hits.

Also on the buffet spread were desserts prepared by The Cravings Group’s Wicked—Chocolate Barks (thin chocolate slices with assorted toppings such as Almond Cranberry, Matcha Oreo and Tropical Fruit); Cookie Ecstasy (dark, fudgy chocolate cookie with a creamy white chocolate filling, best eaten warm); S’mores (chocolate, Graham crackers and marshmallow confections that come in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate variants) and Cookie Shards (cookie sheets topped with Maltesers).

But if clients have difficulty choosing just one of these desserts, then PDI’s Dessert Sampler (which combines S’mores, Cookie Ecstasy and Cookie Shards in a box) should prove to be a good option.

The sweet tooth will also love the bakeshop items that have been included on the Christmas menu — ensaymada (plain and flavored, such as Classic, Ube, Nutella, Mocha, Salted Caramel and Salted Egg in boxes of six or 12); Holiday Bars (choices are Food for the Gods, special mango bars, butterscotch bars, cacao nib brownies or assorted in boxes of six or 12); Junior Cake Box (containing assorted flavors of Cravings’ classic cakes); and bread pudding with chocolate sauce (an heirloom recipe of Cravings’ mother-and-daughter founders Annie Guerrero and Badjie Guerrero Trinidad).

So with the cakes — chocolate caramel cake (a moist chocolate cake with a thin layer of caramel on top), double chocolate cake (chocolate cake with chocolate icing), Devil’s Food Cake (chocolate cake with coffee custard filling and marshmallow frosting), cherry walnut cheesecake (baked cheesecake with layers of cherries and walnuts), carrot cake (cream cheese with bittersweet chocolate and Maltesers filling and topping), Mars Decadent Cake (Mars chocolate bars on delightful chocolate cake), Nutty Nirvana Cake (Snickers overload cake with a chocolate sponge cake, peanut butter ganache, peanut butter cream), dulce de leche Cake (fluffy Castella cake with butterscotch and caramel buttercream icing), Twix Cheesecake (crushed Twix cheesecake with halved Twix chocolates on top) and Loacker Chocolate Cake (chocolate cake with mousse, topped with milk chocolate and Nutella, and filled with rice krispies).

THE new Avocado mousse cake can be a conversation piece.

There are also special edition cakes, such as strawberry shortcake (fresh strawberries and cream on sponge cake), mocha praline cake (espresso whipped buttercream on chiffon cake and a nutty praline on top), avocado mousse cake (avocado cream and meringue on cookie crumble crust), mango brazo dome (a variation of classic Brazo de Mercedes), Naked Devil’s Food Cake (a variation on the Devil’s Food Cake, allowed to stay naked, which is the trend now) and chocolate caramel cake (a modern take on an original recipe of Cravings).

Incidentally, The Cravings Group is celebrating its 30th anniversary this Christmas. From an intimate dining outlet in Katipunan Ave., Quezon City, opened by the mother-and-daughter team of Annie Guerrero and Badjie Guerrero-Trinidad, The Cravings Group has in the past 30 years grown into a “conglomerate” of food and beverage brands, including Cravings, CCA Manila, Wicked, Epicurious, B&P, Casa Roces, C3 Events Place, The Coffee Beanery, Where’s Marcel?, The Lib, The Orange Place and Seven Suites Hotel Observatory.

“Christmas is not just about great food, but it is a holistic experience that should be enjoyed by and shared with family, friends and loved ones,” reminds Badjie Guerrero Trinidad,” CEO of The Cravings Group.

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