By Rosemarie Reyes – SouthTrip Editor-in-Chief
Photography: Juan Saavedra & Ramon Reyes
If your daily routine is battling traffic to get to your nine-to-five job, then a quick weekend getaway out of town is just what you deserve. Some fresh air and whole lot of good, clean food with your favorite people can do wonders to recharge you for another week of daily life. This is exactly what you get at the new The Fatted Calf Farmhouse Kitchen.
The Fatted Calf Tagaytay just opened in July 27 of this year, delightfully located away from the crowd in upland Silang, Cavite and less than a kilometer from the city of Tagaytay. No worries, Waze can easily help you find it. For us, it meant that we were in for another gastronomic experience in the growing food destination that is Bucal, Silang — it felt like hunting for a hidden treasure!
Artisanal, freshly baked breads and award winning cakes on display welcome you as you enter the rustic farmhouse but the menu offers a pretty solid lineup of savory dishes. From familiar comfort food with a twist to more refined and complicated plates, there’s a good mix of dishes for everyone at The Fatted Calf Tagaytay. And because chef owners Jay Jay SyCip and Rhea Castro-SyCip believe that great meals don’t have to come with hefty price tags, you’ll find a range of eats that are pocket friendly. Yes, there is one that hit the four-figure mark but it is enough to feed a small group.
The Fatted Calf Tagaytay is housed in a high-ceiling bungalow that used to be a private vacation house. Its vertical height is ideal for the eye-catching wire artwork in the shape of a bulb which houses a real working light bulb; it is a small detail like this that makes the dining experience a delight to all the senses. Shining even brighter, and rightfully so, is the beautifully plated food with tempting aromas on the farmhouse wooden tables. The table groupings encourage celebrations, family and nurturing, three ideals that the Fatted Calf stand and strive for. As we will discover ourselves, each dish represents all the goodness that comes with clean food cooked slow.
Lunch was off to a smashing start with The Fatted Calf Terrine Board, an elegant arrangement of three familiar Filipino favorites: ham, delicately smoked tinapa and sisig served with wild pipinito, raisin relish and rustic bread. This appetizer is an explosion of flavors and textures, and we particularly like the sweet sour flavor. We even tried piling all three terrines in one bread and it still worked! Incidentally, the pipinito or wild cucumber is harvested directly from their own garden.
Vegan Glow Salad is a colorful bowl of the freshest naturally-farmed Tagaytay mixed greens, zucchini, asparagus, raisins, grapes, oranges, spiced roasted squash (vegans will LOOOOVE this), pumpkin seeds and quinoa with maple sesame black vinaigrette. This very healthy salad is a perfect balance of flavor and texture. We quite enjoyed the crunch of the seeds, the burst of freshness from the oranges and grapes and the mixed Indian spices of the roasted squash.
Sausage Stuffed Free Range Roulade is an incredibly moist, juicy and tender sous vide free-range chicken stuffed with house-made Chiang Mai sausage, snow peas, squash, sweet potatoes and a generous amount of assorted mushrooms. Health conscious diners will appreciate that the skin has been removed but you can still indulge as the sinfully crispy chicken skin is served as garnish. The oven baked dish is fragrant, filling and flavorful with coconut lime emulsion and Thai yellow curry sauce for that extra punch. Everybody adored the appetizing aroma of the handcrafted curry spices, it just hits the right balance without overpowering the tender chicken.
The surprising lunch favorite turned out to be the all time Pinoy classic Pork Belly. The Fatted Calf’s Humba-style version elevates it as their Braised Pork Belly is packed with flavor and get this, truly melts (just melts!) in the mouth. Even the person who is not so fond of meat dishes in our group says that she understood why many are pork lovers after one bite. This comfort food uses only naturally farmed pork sourced nearby (Chef Jay Jay says that the farm raises really happy pigs!) with Bok Choy, soy sauce, salted red egg and roasted garlic puree. Sikwate, 100% organic tableya from Davao, and the popular Big Ben’s Imus Longganisa bits add texture, flavor and balance to cut through the richness of the pork fat.
The Fatted Calf’s signature dish, Roasted Leg of Beef, is their take on the humble all-time, old time fave Bulalo. “It’s something familiar, but new. This is unique and we are the first in the whole of Silang and Cavite to offer it,” Chef Rhea said with a smile. The hunk of meat — three kilos of tender local beef — has been slow roasted for 10 hours (yes, almost half a day) and served with root vegetables in season. Extremely flavorful and fork tender, this special cut serves up to six people and must be pre-ordered at least a day in advance as stocks from their local supplier are very limited each weekend.
Flour Pot Rum Cakes Manila, established by Chef Rhea in 2017, supplies all the freshly baked breads, cookies, rolls, and naked cakes including the Hummingbird Cake, very recently picked as the Certified Best Dessert by Inquirer Lifestyle. You should try the sublime dinner rolls — I could easily demolish dozens in one sitting — so soft, light and tasty especially when slathered with homemade butter produced in small batches from an artisanal dairy farm.
For dessert, we had the rum cake which uses only the yolk from organic eggs (no artificial coloring to produce the bright, sunny color) and good local rum. One bite and we understood why this divine slice of heaven can warm you up and make you feel better instantly. Perfect for the increasingly rainy days we’ve been having lately, and best paired with a cup of good, locally sourced coffee. For this, we will gladly make the trek down south.
Another surprise is the refreshing and lovely iced tea made with bunches of Tarragon leaves from the front garden, cut just a few minutes before preparation. Hands down the best natural tea cooler I have ever tasted, it is heaps nicer than a cup of hot Tarragon tea commonly served in other restaurants. Definitely a must-try. But if you prefer wines that will pair so nicely with any of their dishes, they have a decent selection for you to choose from.
The husband-and-wife couple shared a few of their personal ideals and goals when running their very first restaurant. First, they are adamant about sourcing direct from local farmers and micro entrepreneurs whenever possible. Partnering with family farms and friends who grow greens, coffee, organic eggs, cheese and chocolate, to name a few, ensure that they get only the best yield every harvest. Most of their produce are naturally farmed, meaning allowed to grow with as little human intervention as possible until ripe for picking. Everything is made from scratch and cooked slowly and lovingly using the finest and freshest ingredients. “We do not want anything overpowering the natural flavors. The ingredients we choose are clean, wholesome, naturally grown and free from chemicals and pesticides. At the end of the day, what we eat and what our guests eat are safe and clean,” Chef Jay Jay shared.
“It’s all about going back to the basics. We want to serve food that we grew up with so you can enjoy the same clean food and comfort dishes that we have always loved.” Chef Jay Jay believes that nostalgia plays a huge element in creating loyal customers. When people taste food that reminds them of the past, especially times with family shared over good food, it creates a connection and a desire to keep remembering the good old times.
The Fatted Calf Tagaytay is also not confined to a particular cuisine, the chef describes the menu as borderless. “There is no limit to what we can do; we give respect to the food and the ingredients. We keep things very simple because we don’t want to take away from the natural flavors. We go with what is in season. We are defined by the ingredients that we use. To us, it’s all about going back to basics. But we always find a connection with the past to the present through the mindful use of every item in our kitchen”.
They are focused on building and maintaining connections from the local growers to the diners, and from the chefs’ past food experiences with their present offerings. The Fatted Calf Tagaytay is all about celebrating connections with friends, farmers and guests. Their tagline sums it all neatly: celebrations, family, nurturing. From our personal experience, it is a place where nurturing local farmers translate to memorable celebrations with family. Good food, good times, good people.
When asked about why they chose the name and a theme that highlights family and celebration, we discovered that the two are actually seamlessly linked. Chef Jay Jay said that the story of the prodigal son served as inspiration. This is the story of how a father was so overcome with joy when his wayward son finally came home that he ordered their fatted calf prepared for a big welcome back feast. The fatted calf symbolizes love and celebration, and the simple truth that there is nothing more important and enduring as family. “The Fatted Calf” became the natural choice for the name of the couple’s first restaurant in a location they fell in love with over 10 years ago. How fitting — with God’s grace, in God’s perfect time.
Chef Jay Jay revealed that the farmhouse kitchen was originally a brunch place but the market dictated how it will be. “So now we open 8am-7pm on Saturdays and 7am-5pm on Sundays,” revealed Chef Jay Jay. They also open on Fridays and Mondays upon reservation. The Fatted Calf Tagaytay is regularly open on Saturdays and Sundays only, hence your perfect venue to recharge for the weekend.
We suggest coming early to have a peaceful breakfast. You can enjoy cooking tours, private dining with a seasonal menu and very soon, a quaint bed and breakfast where you can extend your relaxing staycation with a full board culinary experience. The chef owners plan to cater to those who prefer to stay in bed and indulge in slow cooked food using farm to table practices and premium ingredients from small farms and local purveyors who adhere to similar business practices.
The produce and handmade items from their partner micro entrepreneurs are quaintly displayed just near the exit door. It’s really quite easy to pick up a few items before you go home. The Fatted Calf Tagaytay has baskets, herbs (just Php 35!), artisanal breads, cakes, 100% free range chicken eggs and wines.
So there we were, gathered around a table by the big, open kitchen with a direct view of the front garden, taking the last sips of the amazing iced tarraggon tea, savoring the most delicious lunch we had together — one that was obviously made with love and purposeful care. It made us think how life is good. This is how to recharge for the daily grind ahead — The Fatted Calf Tagaytay way.
For reservations, call 0917.789.2352. The Fatted Calf Farmhouse Kitchen is open on weekends (Saturday 8am-7pm, Sunday 7am-5pm) at 23 Vito Belarmino Street, Bucal, Silang, Cavite. Visit @thefattedcalf_ph and The Fatted Calf PH in Facebook.
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