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In chilly Tagaytay, a culinary flame kept alive–especially on Valentine’s

Restaurant Verbena ‘was–and still is–my baby,’ says former chef and now hotelier David Pardo de Ayala

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Fresh Oysters with Limoncello and Caviar

“You can take the chef out of the kitchen, but you can’t take the kitchen out of the chef.” So said Discovery Suites’ former corporate chef and now resident manager David Pardo de Ayala, prior to a recent lunch at the group’s property in Tagaytay.

He was reacting to a comment made by this writer about his apparent refusal to leave the kitchen entirely and focus on his new tasks.

“When I joined the Discovery group in 2006, I was responsible for Verbena, the restaurant at Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay. It was—and still is—my baby,” he said.

The large house located on the ridge had been converted only a year before into a boutique hotel with seven guest rooms and a full-service restaurant. Restaurant Verbena ranked second in the Top 5 Philippine restaurants in the 2011-2012 edition of the Miele Guide.

Spinach-ricotta Dumplings flavored with Bacon and Balsamic Vinegar

Every February since then, Pardo de Ayala has been coming up with a His and Hers Valentine menu that he would begin preparing four months in advance.

“We’ve always offered this Valentine-theme menu. Although we already have a new corporate chef, he only came on board recently. It takes a lot of preparation to design the menu that will only be available for a week at Verbena,” he said.

 

Spanish, Italian flavors

This year, the His and Hers menu will feature Spanish- and Italian-inspired flavors, respectively. At the press preview held last week, those who chose the menu for him sampled an oyster croquette tinted with saffron; a creamy rice dish flavored with mushrooms and Idiazabal cheese; either chorizo prawns with fideos (thin noodles) and an aromatic pimenton sauce or Chilean sea bass with vegetable pesto and black olives; a slice of US rib-eye; and a sweet orange dessert.

Prawns with SicilianMarsala condiment

Those who opted for the ladies’ menu started their meal with a trio of fresh oysters followed by an appetizer of Spinach-ricotta with bacon and balsamic vinegar. They then chose between prawns and sea bass before being served a slice of US rib-eye with truffle mashed potatoes.

Dessert was a chocolate panna cotta flavored with amaretto and strawberries.

Now that corporate chef Anthony Raymond has joined the group, Pardo de Ayala said he will help him “keep the culinary flame alive,” adding that all he really wants is “one finger in the pie.”

Restaurant Verbena is at Discovery Country Suites, 300 Calamba, San Jose, Tagaytay City. For inquiries, call tel. 6346-4134567 or 632-5298172.


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