Wednesday, September 26, 2012

House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival

House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival is a 2010 book by Deborah Ball about the heritage of Versace, one of high-fashion's most colorful brands, both in terms of design and background. Known for its bright patterns that border on garish, the house was thrust into a different kind of limelight when its founder, Gianni, was shot dead by Andrew Cunanan. The incident became a morbid source of pride for most Filipinos, who seemed to relish the fact that Cunanan is Filipino. The book details Versace's downward spiral, led by Gianni's sister Donatella.

The book was a terrific read. I've always been fascinated by the outre styling of Versace and the persona of Donatella. The book practically touched every aspect of the birth of the brand, from its design, finances, and its place in the fashion galaxy. I appreciated how it wasn't a fluff piece, or an ode to the label. It was honest, even brutal, especially when it described Versace as small compared to other labels like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. In the end, it wrapped with an open question, wondering whether Versace can keep up with the competition instead of harping how the world will finally bow down to Donatella.

The story itself is fascinating. Gianni rose from a poor region in Italy, and began his rapid rise in fashion, his taste for outrageous designs and crazy patterns shocking most locals, who discriminated against him because of his region. They preferred Armani, whose elegant and classy designs were reminiscent of the sophisticated haute couture of Paris. In fact, there was one saying that went "Armani dressed the wife, Versace the mistress."

For a young brand, Versace has gone through a lot of shit, losing its talented designer at the height of his fame and leaving the the house to his younger sister. Frankly, the publicity Donatella gathered for the house did a lot of good, but her excessive lifestyle almost ruined the house, which has immortalized the supermodel and created the cult of celebrity. More importantly, Versace made clashing prints and neon colors a legitimate trend, and that piling color upon color can be sexy.

What Gianni and Donatella lacked in a poor sob story, they made up for with high drama. From Gianni's untimely murder to Donatella's destructive habits and high-camp personality, it dishes up all the facts on the family without sounding dirty or sleazy. There was actually something heartwarming about the book, with the Versace siblings' strong emphasis on family.

It's a story of fashion, believing in yourself, murder, but really, House of Versace is all about faith and having a strong team behind your back, because at the end of the day, family is all you'll have. But when they're dressed in Versace from head to toe, you might as well enjoy life, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The teppanyaki station at Marriott Cafe

Last Thursday, Nikko invited me for dinner to Marriott Cafe in Marriott Hotel, for a blogger's event to unveil its latest addition, a teppanyaki station. According to executive chef Meik Brammer (who I suspect is Swedish based on his accent), it is the only hotel with a teppanyaki grill as part of the buffet line.

Teppanyaki, a Japanese style of preparing food, uses an iron griddle (teppan) to grill (yaki) a wide variety of proteins from beef and chicken to shrimp and vegetables. The station is managed by Chef Manuel, whose shy demeanor masks a fierce talent for cooking and kitchen exhibition.

I have been to Marriott Cafe once, when my mom considered applying as a member when it first opened, but it was my first time to eat there. The teppanyaki station was one of the best stations, considering Nikko and I tried most of the offerings. The beef, tender and marbled, is US choice, and was perfect with the stir-fried rice and special sauces. There was this particular yellow sauce that I liked, but I was so into the dish that I forgot to check.

Being Japanese, I couldn't resist the sushi section, which regularly replenished its selection. They offered fresh salmon sushi and sashimi, tuna, ebi, and California makis for those who aren't as adventurous. I believed I had four servings of the salmon sushi, eating one serving entirely by hand. Nikko is not a fan of sushi but I'm glad that he enjoyed the salmon. The tuna sashimi, not so much. Baby steps, after all.

I also enjoyed the rib-eye steak with peppercorn sauce. Served medium-rare, it's perfect, especially the outer layer of the meat. I wanted to have another serving but when faced with the teppanyaki station, the Chinese section, and the dessert section, it was a wise idea to pass on another slice.

Perhaps my favorite dish of the night was the hazelnut nutella gelato, a concoction prepared by the house chefs. It's creamy, flavorful, and light, and I still find myself craving for it days after the event. It was so delicious.

I got to meet the other bloggers, who I admire for their consistency in maintaining their blogs. I find that I have a hard time maintaining mine since I started writing for The Philippine Star, but their enthusiasm, including Nikko's, inspired me to be more active. After all, my blog has a heritage, it started in 2006.

A special thanks to Vannah Santiago of Marriott Hotel, who was so kind in accommodating everyone, including myself. She's acquainted with my section of the Star and also knows my boss.

For a truly gastronomical treat, it would be a great idea to drop by Marriott Cafe and try the teppanyaki station. Leave some space for the hazelnut nutella gelato, it's going to be worth it.

For inquiries and reservations, call 988-9999.

Photos taken from here and here.
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