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Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Secret Garden

It's been months - and I felt it very much so - since I wrote anything here.  This even though there were indeed a lot of exciting things that needed to be shared.  While we are already much into the new year, let me take you back to November of the year before when my husband and I were invited by the Baillage de Manille (or the Manila Chapter) of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gastronomic society established in Paris in 1950, but whose foundations started with the guild of "goose roasters" further back in 1248.

It was on the occasion of the Chaine's outreach activity, their 4th Supplemental Feeding Program, that we were invited to witness.  Thus, aside from the Confrerie's "day job" of honing the members' respective craft or skill in roasting, table art, hospitality, and all things related to gastronomy, and establishing standards thereto, they also engage in charitable activities.

But the highlight of that day was the luncheon that was held at Kalamunda Restaurant located on the border of Tagaytay and Silang in Cavite, a good 2-hour's drive from Manila.  For Philippine locals, Tagaytay is quite a familiar destination for those who just want to get away from the hustle and noise of Metro Manila even for just a few hours, and still be able to get back to it in a day.  Normally, a visit to Tagaytay would mean eating along chain restaurants along the highway, but Kalamunda is not one of those.  It is tucked away among Tagaytay's inner streets which one could get lost in as one goes through the many corners and turns to get to this gem of a place.

Kalamunda is the Australian Aboriginal name for "home in a bush or country" and is actually the residence of Carlos and Sylvia Miguel who opened up their home for private lunches and dinners by appointment.  The choice of the name is also a salute to the couple's former country of residence before deciding to come back and re-establish their roots in the Philippines.


Passing through the gates of Kalamunda on that bright sunny day, one is greeted by an airy terraced home, extensive greenery peppered by sheep and goats at a distance, and a warm welcoming handshake from Carlos Miguel.  Even with boisterous laughter from children and adults alike, a peaceful spell is still cast upon the place.
 The residence’s cook is the equally charming and engaging Sylvia Miguel, who took charge of preparing the sumptuous buffet starting with a sampling of her Duck and Chicken Liver Parfait accompanied by Melba Toasts on which to spread the richness on. It was just perfect to whet everyone’s appetite for the lunch to come.  This, in turn, was composed of a Salad of Mixed Greens, Blue Cheese and Pear with Mustard Seed Dressing, Chicken with Herb de Provence and Mushrooms, Mixed Seafood Pudding, and the centerpiece of that occasion, the organic milk-and-corn-fed Lechon (roasted pig), for which Kalamunda is steadily being known for.  For one who has had enough of lechon and promised to strike it off voluntarily from one's list of "food to eat" as I have, I was pleasantly surprised at how crispy the skin off the roast was, and the clean but sumptuously milky taste of the meat, very much redolent with the aroma of lemongrass. 

But you would think that was all there was to the menu.  You would be wrong of course.  I just have to make special mention two of my favorite dishes from that lunch: the Slow-Braised U.S. Beef Belly that was just melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and Sylvia’s pride that is the Roasted Vegetable Paella, one of the few authentically prepared ones that I have tasted.  The other favorites would be the desserts that were meticulously prepared by enchanting Sylvia herself - the delectable Chocolate Natilla with Almond Praline and the creamy and light Pavlova, a traditional Australian dessert which was heavily laden with fresh kiwi, mango and banana slices.
The meal did not end without the group’s thanks given to Carlos and Sylvia for the unforgettable spread, and to confreres Charlie and Chinit Rufino who organized it.  However, our special thanks should go to Mr. & Mrs. Freddie Borromeo who have been our most gracious hosts throughout the trip.
It was indeed a perfect lunch for a perfectly sunny day.

P.S. I recommend that you try Sylvia's Chicken and Duck Liver Parfait that comes in a ceramic jar, and packed in box.  A very generous serving for PhP450/jar.  If I posted this last November as I ought to have done, it would have been a wonderful gift to give for the holidays, but anytime is a good time to enjoy this - trust me, it's worth the delayed word-of-mouth thing.  You can place your orders by texting or calling +63 917 8810032 or call directly at +63 2 6683678.  Things can be arranged so you dont have to go all the way to Tagaytay to get your purchases, and instead pick it up in Makati.
Maybe if you're looking for somewhere unique but homey to host your events, you can also try getting in touch with Sylvia and Carlos so you can gather your family and friends at Kalamunda and organize an unforgettable event.

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