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A country house with elevated heritage food |


A country house with elevated heritage food

Therese Jamora-Garceau, Scott R. Garceau - The Philippine Star
A country house with elevated heritage food
Welcome: A converted rest house is the setting for My Country House’s lanai dining space.

MANILA, Philippines — After the success of their farm-to-table concept Farmer’s Table, the Raintree Hospitality Group recently opened a new restaurant in Tagaytay, and it’s the ideal destination for families out on Sunday jaunts — especially those celebrating a special occasion.

My Country House has all the cozy feels of a family home, and that’s because it used to be one.  A friend of Raintree’s Wisniewski family offered them her family’s rest house in a location right next door to Farmer’s Table, so it was a no-brainer that the Wisniewskis would add it to their roster of restaurants:  Jones All Day, Providore, Saboten, Izakaya Sensu, Chotto Matte, Friends & Family, The Coconut Club, ChaCha’s Beach Café, Farmer’s Table, and now My Country House.

Wisniewski matriarch Annabella and her sons Andrej and Martin converted the house’s nine-car garage into a kitchen, the lanai into the al fresco, 130-seat dining area, and the lush, forest-like garden into a future site for weddings and events.

“Actually, two of the daughters who lived here got married in the garden,” Annabella notes.  “We plan to build rooms so that people can stay.”

Even if Farmer’s Table next door does 800 to 900 covers a day and has a two-hour waiting list, the Wisniewskis didn’t want to build an extension of it.  “We wanted to do something different; get another market to try it out,” Martin says. “There it's a lot more Filipino-centric.  Here it’s kind of western, heritage.  The Filipino food here is more celebratory, like paella, it’s more Spanish and made for sharing.”

Adds brother Andrej Wisniewski: “We tried to do it a bit more upscale than Farmer’s, which is very casual.”

My Country House owners Annabella (second from left), Martin (left) and Andrej Wisniewski with Andrej’s wife, Myrza Sison

“We wanted to make it feel like your rich tita’s house,” Martin laughs. “You know, growing up, you’d go to someone's house, you don't really want to hang out with your family, but you know the food's going to be good, so you go.”

And the food at My Country House is definitely good. We started with drinks from their Liquor Cabinet menu. Andrej’s wife, style icon Myrza Sison, said her favorite drink was Dragon Blood, a Game of Thrones-inspired tipple with lychees and rum that gets its red hue from pink dragonfruit, so Therese ordered that, later followed by a My Country (Aperol) Spritz.

Instead of a noontime cocktail, Scott opted for the menu’s San Francisco-style Irish Coffee: hailing from the Bay Area’s famed Buena Vista Café, the recipe calls for a bracing glass of coffee (local Amadeo barako) topped with lightly whipped cream, sugar cubes and 1.5 ounces of Irish whisky. Since Amadeo, Tagaytay, is the Coffee Capital of the Philippines, this was a great choice.

One appetizer you have to order is the Seared Foie Gras Canapés, generous slabs of duck liver on sourdough crisps, whose buttery richness is sweetly offset by fig, apple and pineapple preserves.

Cheese lovers can try the Cheese Gougeres, Parmesan and basil cheese puffs stuffed with cheese cream.

My Country House showcases the goodness of Tagaytay’s produce in many of its appetizers. Burrata & Beets is a bestseller where the pairing of the creamy cheese with the red vegetable just works. In Miso Bagna Cauda, where you dip veggies into a warm, anchovy-olive oil sauce, the vegetables are so fresh and crisp you feel like they were newly harvested, and they are. “Down the street we work with a farm called Embrace, and they supply us,” Martin says.

We loved the Roasted Farm Tomato “Tarte Tatin,” which tops crisp puff pastry with tomatoes, pecorino, pesto and Thai basil from the garden —a surprisingly hearty, comforting dish that reminded us of Italy.

The Summer Arugula Salad was fresh and cleansing, with fresh goat’s cheese and edible flowers on a spread of arugula, candied walnuts and fresh beets dressed with citrus-dragonfruit vinaigrette.

With its koi pond, weekend violinist and Silkie chickens Ike, Tina and Gonzo freely ranging in the garden (Andrej says they might consider getting an alpaca to roam the lawn as well), My Country House is a tranquil complement to Farmer’s Table.

“You can eat Filipino food for lunch then eat foie gras at night, if you wanted to,” Martin says.

“Or sometimes they eat there then they come here for dessert, or vice versa,” adds Andrej.

As it was, many families were coming in on the Sunday we visited, and the restaurant was full for lunch, with tables of people conversing, eating, and laughing.

Scott loved the Truffled Mushrooms and Cheese Capelletti, with its plump, homemade dumplings stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, spooned over with warm truffle foam.

The Chef’s Famous Melting Salmon is cooked “low and slow” by chef Arnold Gozon.

He also enjoyed the Twice-Cooked US Beef Short Ribs, with its delicious chunks braised six hours then grilled, to fall off the bone with a spoon in the serving dish. The texture was silky-soft, with a burgundy wine reduction jus that envelops the palate — comfort food at its country best. Corporate chef Arnold Gozon even torched fresh rosemary stems for an added layer of grilled flavor.

Therese appreciated the many pescatarian items on the menu.  Chef Gozon achieves the texture of his Famous Melting Salmon by cooking it “low and slow,” according to Martin, who also had us try a new fish dish, Filetto di Pesce con Limone (Pan-Seared Apahap Fillet). With its grilled lemon, capers and herbed beurre blanc, it’s a yummy option for fish lovers.

In terms of rice, outstanding on the menu are the Saffron Seafood Paella, which is al dente, ultra-flavorful and topped with prawns, mussels and squid; and the Green Pea & Asparagus Israeli Couscous “Risotto.” Therese much preferred the soft pearls of couscous over the sometimes starchy grains you get in traditional risotto.

For vegetarians there’s also Spicy Chickpea Masala Curry, a roasted sweet potato blanketed with curry sauce, coconut cream and fried shallots that Martin says was inspired by a theme-park treat he saw in the States.

Since by this time we were busting at the seams, we were grateful that My Country House’s dessert menu was light and airy.  While the Tropical Fresh Fruit Bowl is a healthy option, don’t miss the dulce de leche Canonigo or the spectacular Classic Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Soufflé.  A server can come to your table to mix vanilla bean ice cream and crème Anglaise into the soufflé, and one spoonful of this ambrosia will have your eyes rolling into the back of your head.

My Country House is pet-friendly as well. We enjoyed watching dogs released from their leashes frolicking in the garden, while their owners took photos in the many Instagrammable spots.

As we sipped our last cups of Amadeo coffee, we thought how My Country House is a great addition to Tagaytay’s landscape of destination restaurants — a category that’s become more diverse, sophisticated, and yet still homey with this country-house setting.

* * *

My Country House is located at #115 Pulong Sagingan Street, Brgy. Maitim, 2nd West, Tagaytay City, open daily Monday to Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.  Reservations are encouraged via 0917-875-1154 (Viber) or call/SMS 0960-456-6873.  For updates, follow My Country House on Facebook and Instagram.

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