Let me just begin with this: these are two of the best pork dishes I've had in a long time, and I had to escape tall the way to Tuscany to taste them.
After the holidays, I just wanted to escape. Pass through these gates and be transported to a completely unique realm outside Manila, and outside the country.
Rustic stone and cement walls supported by wooden balustrades and arches, every inch of the structure is reminiscent of small villages in the Tuscan region of Italy, where camaraderie and cuisine come together in such a familial manner.
Upon looking around, Mr. S and I concluded that this Marcia Adams' lady must be Italian, or lived in the Mediterranean, or was vastly exposed to the Tuscan and Greek regions. Since we both traveled through the Mediterranean this summer, with Mr. S living in a real Tuscan villa right outside Florence, we were convinced that this lady had taken in the Italian culture, architecture and culinary prowess and transplanted it into her home in Tagaytay.
Surrounding the estate are plenty of greenery, ferns, herbs and planters, this feline one greeting us by the entrance.
My culinarily snooty Brother had mentioned to me that I MUST try out this Marcia Adams' place, that it felt, looked, and tasted like Italy. That's a tall order since both he and I lived a part of our college life in Italy, and we have been privy to the authentic Mediterranean way of living and eating. If he insists, it must be true.
I appreciate the use of good china, heavy silverware, and proper cloth napkins at meals. The added touch of the sunflower vase brightened up our wooden dining table.
We dined with the view of Bamboo stalks waving through the breeze, which served as our air cooler. Tagaytay weather is great for places like these because you can dine al fresco, or indoors, and feel comfortable eating without fans or air-conditioners.
As we were considering our dining options, we were served some bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. From that alone, I knew I was NOT in Italy because the bread was actually edible and quite soft and chewy, compared to the rockhard & bland loaves of bread served at tables mandatory because of the cuperto (cover charge) imposed on most trattorias. Trust me, you'd think Italy would serve amazing bread on the table? Stop deluding yourself.
For the holiday season, their menu informed that a consumable cover charge of PhP700/adult was required, but that most main courses (conveniently priced at around PhP700 anyway) are served with an Appetizer, a Dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage refreshment. That means that per head meal for a 3-course meal with drink was PhP700 (USD16). Not bad for such a refreshing ambiance.
The restaurant doesn't serve Coke or soda, but does offer Australian Bundaberg Peachee non-alcoholic beer, which was bubbly and tasted like Peach Schnappes.
I opted for their homemade Lemon-Lime BittersA refreshing spritzer made from both citrus fruits and Angostura Bitters (a liquor/spirit) to lend its character. The 'special ingredient' (sorry guys, I was sworn to secrecy by Marcia herself) tied this beverage altogether in such a crisp manner, I'm tempted to create this on a warm day as a cooler.
As a starter, we tried the Amalfi Prawns"Crispy and succulent prawns marinated in salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley, coated with bread crumbs and pan-fried." Served atop savory crisps, the prawns were seasoned perfectly, and had a very appealing aftertaste from the parsley. I had to do a double take when I looked at the ingredients because they were so basic, yet the taste was spot on. Very Mediterranean to use simple ingredients to let the main item shine through. We wished there was more shrimp.
I opted for the Galician SoupA Spanish broth with ham, kidney and fava beans, lettuce potatoes
Looked like a bland version of a minestrone, but was actually full of flavor from the inclusion of the ham/Jamon Serrano. The broth was well seasoned and lent good contrast to the creaminess of the beans.
Grilled Aromatic Pork
M�sRt7p'�Z�t�T`�/matic spices and herbs, this glorified piece of Liempo receives its justice. The thick slab of belly was moist, tender, and bursting with flavors that layered garlic with turmeric and flatleaf parsley. I ordered mine with Couscous, a grain similar to rice but smaller, like quinoa. I could not get over the overwhelming portion sitting atop my oversized Martha Stewart Collection dining plate (yes, I checked the bottom).
Served with a Pineapple Chutney with mint and honey, the sweetness of the chutney cuts through the fattiness of the pork which can get tiring especially since the pork belly is fattier.
The turmeric lends a lovely vibrant and earthy flavor to the pork, enhanced by the moistness of the meat. I love spices and the subtle layers of herbs and spices come alive with every bite. LOVE.
I hesitated when Mr. S chose the Italian Pork Chop as his main course, as we would be eating too much pork, plus it was made with fennel, which I'm not a fan of because of its licorice aftertaste. This grilled loin chop seasoned with fennel and pepper was such a generous portion, about an inch and a half thick, and cooked perfectly to not dry out the meat. The fennel was such a slight lingering taste that I actually surprised myself by enjoying its inclusion in the seasoning. mix Served with organic rice with leeks and chives, the aromatic rice brought a Filipino flair to the seemingly Mediterranean pork preparation.
One accompaniment I would have appreciated was a vegetable side dish, like a ratatouille or some grilled vegetables, steamed greens, or some fiber that would complete the plate on a more balanced level.
Fried Bananas with Dark Chocolate Dip
I was expecting some interesting preparation, but what you see is what you get. Not a fan of this since the bananas weren't Plantain or anything special, and the chocolate dip was not tempered, hence was difficult to 'dip' unless it melted from the heat of the bananas. Nothing amazing, and you know I thrive on amazement.
Panna Cotta with Lemon Sauce
Marcia rebounded with her panna cotta. The panna cotta itself needed a few more hours in the chiller, since it was so delicate and collapsed easily, but I could taste the quality of the cream and the smoothness of the base. But the star of the dessert was the lemon sauce.
The lemon sauce was sweet and tart at the same time, the bright citrus flavor standing out because the zest of lemons & limes were used in the sauce. Almost like a marmalade, I wanted to bottle it up and take home with me. Reminded me of Key Lime Pie at Seasons 52... Mmm...
The great thing about Marcia Adams is that time seems to stand still, and after a fantastic late lunch, we wanted to linger around and relax, and the surroundings make it possible for lounging around and easing after a bite.
I decided to venture in some sightseeing around the estate
Behind the main dining area is this bright and naturally lit area where you can dine and lounge at the same time. Expansive windows look out onto high grass fields that hide the traffic of Tagaytay on a Sunday lunch. This room was more Spanish than Italian, with a more private setting if you are a bit shy.
From our table, the show window had the view of the bar & the dishwashing area
And I caught glimpse of Marcia herself hard at work in the kitchen...
Could not resist so I invaded the kitchen to get a gander at the main lady in her workstation.
Introduced myself to Marcia, who apparently answered all my queries via SMS for reservations. Multitasking! She was such a warm and welcoming lady, I couldn't help but get intrigued at her prowess.
After I visited the kitchen, she sat down at our table to chat. To our amazement, she divulged that she was neither Italian, lived in the Mediterranean, or let alone been in Italy or Spain! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE!? I was shocked because we told her we both came from there last summer and were pretty sure she had some Med blood in her. We wondered HOW, exactly, is it possible to visualize such an accurate depiction of the Mediterranean if she had never even stepped foot?
Initially, aside from the estate being home, it was also a nursery of exotic plants and trees that she cultivated, grew and sold to collectors. Having difficulty inviting buyers & friends to visit because there was "nothing else to see but plants," she realized she needed to bribe people to come. With food. Clever lady. So with the help of four construction workers, her supportive and social husband, and a lot of architectural and culinary books, she built her Tuscany, just the way she imagined and smelled and tasted it in her mind. I told her she was "sinapian" (possessed) by the Mediterranean gods because it felt so authentic and spot on. She was so pleased that someone who has experienced the Tuscan life can validate her vision, taste buds, and hard work.
Mr. S teaching me a trick on how to give walls that Med finish and texture with tsinelas (flipflops!)
Our bill was delivered in a cute embroidered pouch, very Turkish, and very Eastern Med. She also put my name, and wanted to know Mr. S' moniker so that she could remember us. I have a feeling she would be that type of lady.
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. I'm so sold on your Mediterranean dream! Worth driving all the way to Tagaytay for the taste and feel of true Tuscany.
The restaurant is located on the border of Tagaytay and Alfonso - close to Residence Inn Zoo and only 150m from Aguinaldo Highway. Marcia Adams' Restaurant can be found by heading to Tagaytay and turning right at the rotunda toward Cavite. Right by the Thank You for Visiting Tagaytay signs (with the Pineapples), Turn right onto the road with the Ville Sommet sign. You will see this Wooden Door on your left hand side a few meters after.
Contact Marcia Adams:
+63917 801 1456