Home on the Ridge

What have I been doing lately that doesn’t include posting? Let’s see...a friend came home (from L.A.) for a short vacay – seven days for as many years she was away.  We got together as often as we could, her family and other friends.  Her good friend lent his home in Tagaytay where we holed up and literally pigged out hehehe.

From the street, the house seemed a conventional two story affair with the patio and the de rigeur balconies.  Past the gates you oooh and aahhh over a view deck of a patio, seamless as an infinity pool except for stone fencing made to look like logs.  

Further in is a rather steep looking drop off and you realize there’s more to the house on the ridge – four more!  There’s a ladder of “casitas” built onto the incline. You get a breath taking, vertigo inducing view of Splendido Taal below, the forest in between, and the caldera on one side.  
I wished I remembered to take my Canon with the zoom lens but in my haste to get going I forgot I have one.
The main house is spacious with high ceilings and an attic.  The receiving room is at street level, and you realize the downstairs main living area with a bathroom, open kitchen and terrace hugging the full balcony on the cliff side (for dear life, it seems) is actually the upper story. 
Stone stairs lead down to the other houses.  One I call the kitchen house is just that, with a screened dining area.  One serves as function hall  for videoke nights, mahjong sessions and drinking under the stars).  Two others are two bedroom affairs with a kitchen counter only a hotplate can claim.  The main house has a kitchen island with the granite counter for show cooking.  
All the serious barangay feeding happens at the kitchen house, as I call it. I have few pictures of the private estate, courtesy of Beverly and Michael and James. I’d have loved to take some myself but one tends to forget when floored by the view; caught up in catching up (redundant?) with a soul sister; and entertained by a roomful of fun, foodie people (a couple of concert artists thrown in) that doing so (in my OC-ness) gets in the way of my “immersion”.
I promise to take pictures next time. There must be twenty of us in that house. We brought a whole caboodle of chips and soda and Red Ribbon mamon, cinnamon rolls, moist chocolate cake and cheese rolls. The night before we headed out to Tagaytay, we celebrated my friend’s daddy’s birthday at Cafe Lupe in Antipolo. There was lechon flown in rom Bacolod (aside from everything else, like kare-kare) and the senior guests are mostly on cholesterol watch so there was plenty left to turn into paksiw ( with chilis) at the Tagaytay kitchen house.
Sure, there's plenty of eating places in Tagaytay  but most of us have been and there are many cooks in the house (grill masters too).  Fresh meat and veggies are cheaper at Mahogany (the market) than in Manila and the women just have to do the whole haggling thing - like a fix! So we mostly ate in, except when it is bulalo time.
Incidentally, my friend says roast bone marrow is a big thing in the States. I think I'll try this one soon.
There are a lot of famous bulalo places in Tagaytay but we are a big group so we went to Leslie’s. We had  sisig and inihaw na tilapia and pancit and chopsuey and crispy fried chicken and leche flan besides. .I am stuffed! It was a set meal and we got three sets to feed us all. It was too much, even. Everything was good and the place was packed. Daddy Lim kept saying very good and that he was very happy. It was his first in a long time to be out with the clan and make new memories with his daughter in a place he hasn’t been to in decades. Like I say, old places are as new after a long absence and time has changed us all.
I got to take home the bulalo bones for the pitbull. Seriously, my arm ached from the weight of those bones and the pit made short work of grinding it down to nothing.
Other meals we had grilled liempo, Chef Cheng and Elise’s pok chop (secret recipe) and barbecue to dip in my suggested onion studded vinegar sauce. There was mangga with bagoong and paella from Cafe Lupe (yep, leftover but better, the flavors deeper) as well.
Tagaytay has added on girth like its foodie visitors hehehe. Lots of building going on and everything Manila has, it seems, got squeezed among the old haunts. We had Razon’s halo halo at Robinson’s, because my friend hasn’t had some in years. We went all touristy at Taal Vista, the famous view site which upgrade did away with the kitschy souvenir store, people underfoot and in your pictures! Now you have to eat at the markedly subdued, elegant cafe and hotel restaurant to do that. I like the change, although it occurs to me that it might be elitist for some used to the old way of coming in solely for the view and the photo opp, not necessarily to buy or eat anything.
I love the cafe and the cushy sofa by the working fireplace, where we sat sharing blueberry cheesecake, nachos and Avocado cheesecake. I’ve had Avocado cake (chiffon base, iced,with pistachios) at Lia’s Cakes in Season back in Manila so I figured the cheesecake won’t be too different. It was! Not bad different, but waaay different particularly to my friend who found it “weird” tasting. Avocado has an aftertaste. Cream cheese does too but I suppose the hint of lemon or calamansi (I think there was mint too) made it even “weirder”. I liked it though. Btw, prices are reasonable – worth the picture taking and private contemplation of the caldera front and center. On a fogless day, you might even see into the maw.
I didn’t do any cooking in Tagaytay but shabu-shabu is a good bet for chilly nights up there.
Pardon me for cheating and keeping it simple. We don't have a hotpot or hotplate to keep the broth simmering, which you need to swish-cook cleaned, raw thin strips of pork or beef cut sukiyaki style -very thinly.  Ask the grocery butcher, frozen meat is a lot easier to thin slice. The pork we used is thicker than it should be because I made do, sukiyaki cut pork wasn't available at the time. Yeah, yeah, I pushed it hahaha. I figured I would just parboil and the swish cooking will complete the process

You will want to swish at table because it is fun to see the meat lose its translucent raw blush and turn pale cream in the heat.  I set the "hot" pot on silicone pads. When the pot starts to cool I put it back on the stove to reheat.  Back and forth it goes. Tiring, yes, but I do it! McGyver will pat me on the head.

Anyway my broth is water, a beef cube or two and some strips of good quality nori (what you wrap sushi with). Sometimes I put leeks in there.When we've had our fill of meat I throw in Chinese cabbage strips, vermicelli noodles and shiitake mushrooms for noodle soup after. Simple right?

What's kind of tricky is making the condiment for it.
You get a big sized radish, peeled and washed. Then you use the round tip of the chopstick to poke holes in the radish.  You use a toothpick to take out the seeds of small chilis and take care to keep the chili "shell" intact.  You need chilis big enough to fit the pointy end of the chopstick and you push the chopstick through the chili and tuck it into the holes you made in the radish. See?
Then you grind the chili studded radish and you get a hot, pale peach toned mush that's really good with my makeshift sauce.  Warning: the chili juice however little gets in your hands will sting and burn whatever you touch.
I cook Kikkoman soy sauce laced with a tinapa flake broth (my sub for dashi stock).  You just simmer water with a few flakes of tinapa.  You take the flakes out and simmer the tinapa broth with Kikkoman, rice wine, mirin (preferred but if you know how the sauce should taste you'd know how to make the substitution work) or sake with a bit of sugar.  That's it! You are ready to fish out a piece of meat, pile on the spicy radish, wrap a small piece of nori around it then dip in the sauce.  Love!
At least we do : ) 


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