It was in 2015 when the term "grazing" emerged in catering circles. The neat segregation of dips and hors d'oevres were set aside to highlight a multicomponent feast: towers of cheese wheels, mountains of grapes, trails of nuts and apricots, stacks of bread and biscuits, folds upon folds of cured meats, all arranged in a chaos that makes you just want to dig in. A bounty that's part primeval, part sophisticated, the grazing setup was irresistible that it quickly caught on, finding its way into the arsenal of many enterprising caterers, including those in the Philippines.
How grazing caught on in the country could easily be traced back to Aperitif.ph. Refined sensibilities and social savvy quickly developed what used to be a hobby. Sisters Kim and Karla Zulueta grew up understanding good food and entertaining. "I always liked eating, presenting food, and making dishes pretty," said Karla at their newly opened Aperitif brick-and-mortar in SM Aura Premier. She would host grazing setups for friends when one day a friend asked her to cater her wedding. After refusing initially, Aperitif.ph's story went the way most successful entrepreneurial tales do and by September 2016, the sisters were in business.
"We used to put them in platters," explained Karla, "but that was difficult because the customers had to bring the plates back." The idea then evolved into a smorgasbord box packed with what you'd usually find on a grazing spread. "We kind of invented the grazing box. In fact, we actually have that idea patented." The delectable pull of meats and cheeses coupled by Aperitif.ph patented convenience was an easy enough idea to get around.
Her background in branding has created a specific look and standard for everything that goes on in their business. Confections were created by Malaysian pastry chef Kean Chuan and the gelato was formulated especially for Aperitif.ph. "It took six months because we needed a different consistency for the gelato so we could form fleurs the way they do it in Italy," she explained. The stiffer gelato, however, does little to compromise the silky, creamy quality we've come to expect of this frozen dessert. Cured meats and cheeses are all imported from Italy and pastas are tossed in a cheese wheel before serving.
The SM Aura location, which they've designed as a grab-and-go lifestyle concept store, is only one step in a grand plan to dominate the world. "We wanted our clients to find us beyond the website," Karla said. The highlight is the paper cones which are a miniaturized grazing selection for mall snackers. "I had to think of a way to make us accessible. I don't want people to come in and be put off because everything we had [on the website] cost over P5,000."
Apart from pastries, macarons, coffee, grazing options, gelato,and pasta, the sisters have expanded their brand to include pens, drinking paraphernalia, jade rollers, rose gold metal straws and cutlery, and more. Karla makes Aperitif.ph hard to forget: their signature typeface is stamped on everything, from the boxes to the opera cakes.
"The plan is really to spread out globally. Our items are imported, yes, but our concept is local and Filipinos came up with the idea for these grazing boxes, grazing cones."
"Pretty" is a rather meek shorthand to how Karla's set up Aperitif.ph, but inadvertently or not, it's become much more than an Instagram double-tap. What the Zuluetas have done is to package refinement, made it portable, edible luxury to go--and for less than P500.
Aperitif.ph is at 4/F SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; www.aperitifph.com.