The title was made with all due respect to the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun” 🙂 .
But why just imagine? Well, for two reasons. One, we weren’t in far away Tuscany. Tagaytay may be the nearest we could get to something like the central Italian paradise, but it isn’t. Second, there was no sun when we went there, or at least it was hiding under a thick blanket of clouds. Still, imagination knows no bounds, and at least for an afternoon, you can make-pretend with Tagaytay’s beautiful rolling terrain and verdant greens.
The place is called Marcia Adams, an intimate and rustic little place in the little known corners of Tagaytay. It’s a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, a work of love from the Adams couple, Neil and Marcia (Adams family would sound too familiar).
Marcia Adams (named after the wife, obviously) sits on the slopes of the famous Tagaytay ridge, and even though it’s not on the side facing the magnificent Lake Taal, it is still blessed with a wonderful view of the lush green slopes facing north. And, had it not been for the overcast skies when we visited, I think I could have been witness to a wonderful sunset over the western horizon.
We arrived there a bit early for dinner, but it wasn’t such a bad thing as it turned out. The couple were coincidentally right outside the gate of the property when we got there, and both of them wasted no time welcoming and ushering us in. Marcia, runs the kitchen, while Neil functions as the host, and both are apparently good at what they do. Neil, who hails from the UK, has a jolly and entertaining disposition. You can strike a conversation with him just like that, and you’ll feel like you’ve known him for quite a while. Marcia on the other hand, who comes from the province of Antique, displays her creativity through the menu.
The property looks as if it was torn out from a page of a fairy tale book. As you enter the gate you are enveloped by lush foliage, you could imagine you’re entering the place where snow white and the seven dwarfs lived. It is one big garden filled with vegetation 360-degrees, and in the middle lies a lovely little house that serves a the kitchen and dining hall.
The house itself is an interesting piece of architecture, or lack of it. Neil Adams was particularly proud of the fact that they built the it themselves without help from any architect, and I must say they did a pretty fine job. The result was a house that looked like it was built stone by stone during the middle ages. It was quaint, unassuming, cozy and just plain lovely.
The biggest highlight of course, is the thing that goes out of the kitchen…food, and Marcia’s kitchen does serve an interesting menu. She only serves full course meals, with a selection of either soup or appetizer, more than a handful of different options for the main course, and around four options for dessert. The price of each meal depends on the main course that was ordered.
The selection for the main course has almost everything in it, from beef, pork, chicken, seafood and even lamb, though most of it is prepared in European or Mediterranean fashion. The dessert selection was a mixed bag though, where you can have something as western as oranges and ice cream, to something as local as bananas and chocolate. Their menu also changes regularly, ensuring that each visit would be a unique experience.
I had for myself the Amalfi Prawns for appetizer, the Moroccan Fish Stew for the main course, and the Grilled Orange with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert.
We were first served with bread on the table, together with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a dip. The bread makes form some sort of an “hors d’oeuvre”, a tradition I first became familiar with in Italiannis.
Then came the Amalfi Prawns, which consisted of three herbed, breaded and pan-fried prawns served on small thin wafers. It was a very flavorful starter that got my appetite going (though I must admit that it doesn’t take much to make my appetite go, but that’s a different story). I honestly wished I had more than three but hey, it’s called “appetizer” for a reason, and it’s not supposed to get you full.
Until now, I still can’t explain why I chose the Moroccan Fish Stew. I must admit that Marcia Adams’ extensive menu put me in a bit of a conundrum. There were a lot of things that caught my interest, that I no longer knew what I really wanted in the end. For a while I was staring blankly at the menu, like a soldier who no longer knew where to aim. It’s for this reason that I like short, uncluttered menus…I like going straight to the eating without too much to think of.
Anyway, I probably ended up with the fish stew because of the tag “Moroccan”. I’m one who takes delight in trying out new things, and you don’t see anything “Moroccan” in this country often. In fact, a lot people here probably don’t even know what Morocco is, and that became my tie-breaker.
The dish is made of fish chunks with “harissa” – a type of chili sauce common in North Africa, and preserved lemons, served with herbed organic rice. The harissa made the dish decidedly spicy, and while it wasn’t hot enough to send me begging for juice or anything sweet, this dish would probably not go so well for people can’t take spiciness at all. Be that as it may, I found the dish interesting, though not exactly to-die-for.
The dessert was the highlight of my meal, both in terms of uniqueness in preparation and its overall “enjoyability” (can I invent a word?). The orange lost its acidic bite (most likely courtesy of the grilling), and retained only the sweetness with a little hint of sourness, which went well with the ice cream. This is probably easy enough to prepare at home, but the beauty of the dish was its sheer simplicity and its delightful outcome. It was one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” or “pwede pala iyon?” moments.
Good food, good service, a good place and a good view are a few things that make for an unforgettable meal, and you can get all of those in Marcia Adam’s. And, with a little bit of imagination, you might find yourself drifting to Tuscany.
* We dined at Marcia Adams last June 2011. All photos taken with Olympus E420 and Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8-3.5.