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Farm-to-table delight

/ 05:10 AM December 05, 2021

Jayjay and Rhea SyCip, owner-chefs of The Fatted Calf.

First, let’s begin with the good news.

While the reports of the Department of Health on COVID-19 statistics are unreliable because they constantly publish incomplete data—taking out of their art card daily announcements the fact that some labs failed to submit data and publishing the incomplete number of new cases per day of COVID as if complete—we can rely on the following two hospitals on these announcements. On Friday, the Philippine General Hospital reported that it had no new COVID-19 cases in the past two days. On November 29, Dr. Saturnino Javier, medical director of Makati Medical Center came out with a memo entitled “Sharing the Good News” that the hospital is currently at “very low occupancy for COVID-19.” Hallelujah!

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This is very encouraging news for restaurants and restaurant-goers! While there are many options in Manila, many are also choosing to head to nearby Tagaytay to dine, for the cooler and cleaner air. In nearby Silang is another option: the Fatted Calf Farmhouse Kitchen.

It’s a farm-to-table restaurant that advocates using ingredients and supplies that are locally sourced, direct from farmers and growers, and adhering to natural farming methods or organic methods of raising livestock.

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According to Chef Rhea Castro Sycip, who put up the restaurant with her husband Chef Jayjay Sycip, “We work with the seasons, offering what is abundant in our area or partner farms outside Luzon.”

It’s no wonder they offer a lot of salads on the menu. There really is nothing quite like enjoying a salad from the Tagaytay area; the greens are so fresh and really come alive. The Fatted Calf offers a Thai beef salad where they add local grass-fed beef to Tagaytay mixed greens; a mushroom salad, which has pickled shimeji mushrooms, candied shiitake and seared oyster mushrooms on top of the Tagaytay mixed greens; fruits and nuts salad, which offers dried blueberries, dried cranberries, cashews, walnuts and candied pili nuts with the Tagaytay mixed greens; a burrata salad for cheese lovers, which adds fresh local burrata cheese; and a vegan glow salad for strict vegans, which incorporates zucchini, asparagus, raisins, grapes, oranges, aside from spiced roasted squash, pumpkin seeds and quinoa. I would drive to Silang for any of these salads any day.

But what they are known for, as their name implies, is beef. The bestseller is their whole roasted leg of beef, priced at P2,500. This is a 10-hour roasted beef shank that one must order in advance. Their osso bucco—sous vide local grass-fed beef shank cooked with fresh tomatoes, white wine, and fresh herbs—is also a hit.

For those who don’t eat beef, they also offer “fresh catch of the day”, i.e., sustainably caught fish that they handpick from the seaport.

You also don’t want to miss out on dessert. Chef Rhea Castro SyCip was with the Discovery Group and then became the food and beverage director of Holiday Inn Makati before leaving city life for relaxing Tagaytay. She has always been known for her rum cakes. Her brand Flour Pot Manila supplies the desserts for The Fatted Calf. If it is in stock, make sure to order her strawberry shortcake, which she is also known for. Her donuts with fresh strawberries are also an experience you would want in your memory!

The Fatted Calf opened in July 2019 but it has had a lot of challenges as a business: first, the eruption of Taal Volcano and then the pandemic lockdowns. Thankfully, since they reopened in November 2020, they have been operating continuously and have also opened their doors for events, from family gatherings to weddings. So if you are a big group, consider The Fatted Calf because the chefs’ experiences allow for five-star hotel service but with the heart of a family-owned business.

“We celebrate family, friends, good food and company,” Chef Rhea shares. In fact, the name of the restaurant is not about their roasted leg of beef but about the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a story in the Bible that speaks of a son who left home, used up his wealth, then found his way back home and was welcomed back by his father not with castigation but with a feast.

This is how we all feel now as COVID-19 cases go down (and hopefully disappear altogether!): we welcome life back not just with open arms but with a feast! And with a 10-hour roasted fatted calf! Time to celebrate!

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