Rebooting tourism (Part 2)

Published April 24, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


Earlier in the week, the Philippines hosted the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Global Summit, and it stands as a timely reminder of the various stakes at play as we try to jumpstart our national recovery. Two Sundays ago, in Rebooting Tourism Part 1, I wrote about how tourism and our hotel and resort industry deserve our unqualified support, as they put on a brave face, and recover from the effects of this two-year bout with Covid.

I accept that those who can afford it, will definitely be flying out; making trips to destinations abroad a regular feature of their social media posts — which we already see happening with regularity. And I don’t begrudge them that, but I wrote that I fervently hoped they could also support lokal, and appreciate the efforts of our industry to offer quality weekend and holiday stays that highlight what our country can offer.

Without a doubt, for us here in the NCR, Tagaytay is a favorite road trip destination; it’s favorable climate, and the view on the ridge, never fail to appeal — whether as our final destination, or as a pit stop on our drive to Batangas and it’s beaches. As a pit stop, whether heading to our weekend getaway or on the way back to Manila, the many Tagaytay restaurants and F&B establishments have always been attractive propositions that property developers and food businesses have not ignored.

Beyond the different iterations of Antonio’s, among my Tagaytay favorites are the ones we can find on Belarmino Street/Buenavista Hills Road. It isn’t on the ridge itself, but if you’re looking for quality food and a relaxing ambiance, they’re hard to beat. The Fatted Calf Farmhouse Kitchen is a farm-to-kitchen enterprise in a converted home that’s run by chef couple JayJay and Rhea SyCip, with Rhea handling the patisserie side of things via Flour Pot. If you haven’t had the chance to visit Fatted Calf, make sure to put it in your next Tagaytay itinerary — it’s technically in Silang, but you won’t regret stopping by.

You have to order JayJay’s Crab Carbonara, which is your regular carbonara but gifted with subtle Japanese flavors. He adds “ikura” and “nori,” and tops it with fresh crab meat and herbs. It’s good for sharing, and watch the face of the one you share this with light up, when he or she starts swirling the confluence of ingredients in their mouth. It’s truly an excellent Fatted Calf signature dish. The pork skewers with a strong Thai-influence, via the “nam Pla,” cilantro, and modified chimichurri sauce, are another strong bet. It’s JayJay taking something that hails from Argentina, but giving it a Thai/Asian twist.

FATTED CALF’S Crab Carbonara

Make sure to leave room for chef Rhea’s pili nut cheesecake, that has the pili nut grounded into the base of the cake – it’s literally the cheesecake that isn’t a cheesecake, but oh-so-good. And check if Rhea has anything with “Sampinit”; that’s a tart, not too sweet, local berry that harvests this time of the year. And if you want to truly complete your Fatted Calf experience, ask for donut. He’s their pet Labrador/welcoming committee, that’s the sweetest thing on earth, next to Rhea’s baked creations. You can’t leave Fatted Calf without petting Donut.

Closer to the ridge, on the same road, you’ll find Anya Resort Tagaytay. A 4-Star resort/hotel, Anya now boasts of being the home of Samira by Chele Gonzalez. Just a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to try out Chele’s six-course set menu, and it was a degustation/food experience worth raving about. On their own, the amuse bouche course with it’s seafood crisp rice cracker, the bulalo taco, and the foie gras and mango waffle were worth the price of admission. Chele has always been super-inventive mixing local ingredients and flavors, with his Spanish culinary heritage, and this was no exception.

AT ANYA RESORT, Samira by Chele’s Seafood Crisp Rice Cracker, one of their Amuse Bouche.

There’s also a four-course cocido experience, that caters to our predilection to stews and rice-influenced dishes. It’s croquetas, followed by a garbanzos soup, then a filling beef, pork, and chicken stew served with paella and fries, and topped with burnt basque cheesecake. Chele’s Gallery here in BGC, has been included in the 51-100 list of Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants, so it’s great to have a taste of Chele in Tagaytay.

Anya is a full service hotel, and it’s been an extremely popular choice of weddings planned in Tagaytay. While their wedding reception area is limited to around 150 guests, one thing Anya has been enjoying is wedding parties where the reception will be held at say, Antonio’s; but the wedding party and their guests will be billeted at Anya.

The day we visited Anya for lunch, and dined at Chele, I’ll let you in on what became a perfect day trip to Tagaytay. After Samira, we headed to the Niyama Wellness Center at Anya, and had their Signature massage that uses bamboo sticks for warmth and a herbal treatment. It was divine! It’s been too long since I’ve had a massage; as here in Manila, I’m still wary of heading to the massage and therapy centers, or contracting one to come to the condo. Niyama just felt safe, and the massage was truly relaxing, and invigorating.

THE NIYAMA Wellness Center at Anya Resort.

The influx of foreign visitors is growing, and that’s encouraging. But for our hotels and resorts to survive, improve, and “up their game”; the support of domestic tourism is badly needed. Hope you can remember this as you plan your next holiday or long weekend.