NURTURE Spa Village Tagaytay provided such a relaxing, comforting and enticing environment for the group of stressed-out Manila-based media people taking part in the recent San Miguel Pure Foods Guerilla Food Tour held earlier this month (March 2013) that we would have all been so happy to just spend the rest of the day in our rooms – especially after getting a pampering massage, facial or foot spa treatment. But that’s not gonna happen when you’re with the San Miguel team headed by San Miguel Food Solutions GM Helene Pontejos, San Miguel Pure Foods Culinary Center head Chef Maricel Manalo with Chefs Kai Verdadero-O and Rene Ruz, and Corporate Affairs’ John Hernandez III and Francene Callueng. For them, a guerilla food tour would not end with just two destinations. Dinner had to be served, it had to be good, and it should round out the three special spots in the guerilla food tour perfectly. They had selected an impeccable dinner destination, and they were sure it would be a great treat for everyone.
The food tour trail said: For dinner, you will be whisked away to a place owned by a person responsible for some of the garden landscapes in Amanpulo, Palawan. Here you will feast on Moroccan-inspired dishes prepared by a celebrity guest.
So, the group assembled at the lobby of Nurture Spa at 6:15 p.m. on March 12 and whisked away we indeed were. It was quite a long ride in the coaster, as our driver carefully made his way from Tagaytay to Silang, Cavite, occasionally getting phoned-in instructions and directions. We felt like the Three Wise Men following the Star of Bethlehem to where the Newborn Jesus lay, as we searched for and followed the red light on top of a cell site or tower which stood right beside our place of destination.
Of course. It had to be the third stop.
But when we did find the place and the coaster parked on the side and we all got down and assembled in front of the place, as requested by Chef Maricel, it didn’t feel like a garden at first. The walls were tall, and the gates were solid and high. A small sign up on one side of the walled property said “Touch of Craft.” Chef Maricel made a phone call and, on cue, the gates were opened and loud drum music instantly began. It was an awesome moment when the gates opened to reveal two firedancers standing in front of a live band, and then the performance – so reminiscent of the firedancing performances in Boracay – began. It was magical watching them “set fire” on a clearing in a forest/garden setting, and that was quite a powerful introduction to an evening of fine Moroccan dining experience.
Dinner was in an al fresco pavilion that had been set up in full Moroccan style. The tables were low, and pillows garbed in vibrantly colored and patterned splendor served as seats for everyone. Dinner by candlelight, Moroccan style! Yes, this was Emily’s Garden, the home of a stylish lady named Emily Campos, who has designed breath-taking garden landscapes for Amanpulo. She welcomed the group to her abode and even had dinner with us. After her warm welcome, the “celebrity guest” mentioned in the food tour clue trail revealed herself – Sabrina Artadi of Sabrina’s Kitchen, which now airs over the Asian Food Channel!
True to the Moroccan theme of the night, Sabrina assembled a completely Moroccan menu consisting of Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Stuffed with Beef and Couscous and Asparagus and Eggs in Olive Oil and Balsamic Dressing for the appetizers. She went the rounds of the tables, explaining the dish, talking to everyone and personally serving everyone. Then it was time to get up and load up on Tabbouleh Salad, Moroccan Spiced Magnolia Jumbo Chicken, Cinnamon Spiced Osso Buco in Red Wine Tomato Sauce and Easy & Quick Mushroom-Parsley Rice Risotto from the buffet table. Sabrina personally carved the lovely Moroccan Spiced Magnolia Jumbo Chicken and served everyone with it.
To make the Moroccan dinner even more fun, Sabrina made dessert an interactive buffet experience. She assembled a buffet of the ingredients needed to make a Bohemian No-bake Cream Cheese Cake Topped with Blueberry or Strawberry Preserves and Mint, conducted a short demo on how to assemble one in a fluted glass and on a plate, and then urged everyone to make his/her own. She had everyone cap the fully satisfying Moroccan dinner with a cup of Hot Turmeric Tea, which is medicinal as well.
“Turmeric is good for detox and balance, and it kills cancer cells,” she explains.
A quick tour of the property, from the wide expanses of lovely gardens to the house at the back to the souvenir shop that sells some of the art stuff that Ms. Emily Campos makes and sells.
By the time the evening came to an end, everyone had a full evening of fun, good food and perfect company. The drive back to Nurture Spa Village Tagaytay turned out to be a more quiet and peaceful one.
Marcia Adams’ Restaurant for lunch as our first stop, Nurture Spa Village for merienda and a little pampering and R&R as our second stop and our home for the trip, and Emily’s Garden for dinner as our third stop… The San Miguel Pure Foods Guerilla Food Tour was complete. Mission accomplished!