By Angelo G. Garcia
Tagaytay City is not just a famous tourist destination but also a productive ground for farms. Its cool climate and rich soil are ideal elements perfect for otherwise hard-to-grow fruits and vegetables in the lowlands. This highland in Cavite is home to numerous farms, including organic ones that supply restaurants and hotels in and out of the rural city.
This is the reason a lot of chefs opt to open restaurants in the area. Tagaytay has a thriving restaurant community, from simple eateries to high-end gourmet restaurants. And most of these restaurants adopt the farm-to-table philosophy.
This is the concept of Taza Fresh Table, the in-house gourmet restaurant of Taal Vista Hotel. Headed by its executive chef Jayme Natividad, the restaurant offers gourmet eats using ingredients from its own garden and surrounding local farms. Chef Jayme, however, admits that these days, it’s hard to find fresh produce in Tagaytay.
“I try to get all my produce here in the area, within a three-kilometer radius. But sometimes, it’s hard to find them, even tomatoes because there are so many restaurants here and the farms also supply restaurants in Manila. Other than that, we try to do our best. I go to the markets to see what I can add on to enhance whatever I am putting on the menu,” he says.
The New York-trained chef has been running Taza’s kitchen four a couple of years now, after almost two decades working in various kitchens abroad. He worked in highly rated restaurants in the Big Apple like Balthazar, Gramercy Tavern, and Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, just to name a few. The Manila-born chef has also worked for esteemed chefs like Mario Batali, Riad Nasr, Zach Allen, and Wolfgang Puck.
At a very intimate dinner, Chef Jayme introduced his new seasonal menu. Every quarter, the restaurant introduces a new menu based on the availability of the ingredients. This quarter, he highlights the holiday season with festive yet sophisticated dishes.
“We have this calendar, it contains all the fruits and vegetables for each month, or the season. I have it constantly updated with our purchasing department, so we know what to get, especially for our specials,” he explains.
The new menu starts with a soup, roasted corn soup with corn relish. Chef Jayme uses local sweet corn, which is highly available this time of the year. Next is the salad, a colorful mix of organic fruits and vegetables in one colorful dish. Mixed greens are tossed with julienned jicama, cucumber, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and cubes of bright pink dragonfruit in a nutty sesame dressing.
The two-pasta dishes on the menu use homemade gluten-free noodles. The octopus and bone marrow pappardelle is a rich and flavorful pasta perfect for a filling meal. The lamb pasta, on the other hand, is an alternative to the regular red meat sauce that usually uses beef. It’s topped with a cream and cheese sauce.
For the mains, the roasted duck with balsamic and honey glaze on a bed of roasted vegetables elevates the humble local duck. Chef Jayme sources his duck from Laguna and creates a beautiful French dish. Also on offer is the pan fried blue marlin fillet with guava reduction sauce. The potent and sweet guava sauce complements the fish fillet.
For dessert, chef Jayme uses two strong local products—Cafe Amadeo and Tablea Alfonso. In his decadent opera cake, layers of thin coffee-soaked almond sponge cake alternate with coffee butter cream and chocolate ganace. It’s topped with a layer of rich and dark ganache and chopped nuts.
“The theme is centered on the holiday season. That’s why I have duck and lamb and whatever else is available this season,” Chef Jayme says.
Taza Fresh Table, Taal Vista Hotel, Kilometer 60, Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City / +63 (2) 917 8225, +63 (46) 413 1000, +63 (917) 809 1254 / www.taalvistahotel.com / Facebook/tazafreshtable / Instagram @tazafreshtable