Thursday, September 1, 2016

Something Old, Something New at Calle Real, Tanza Cavite

It's always a pleasure to discover well and long-loved local restaurants.  With so many fast
food places invading even the smaller towns and municipalities -- it's getting harder to find a restaurant that is so local, it is part of the culinary traditions of the town.  

On our Cavite Culinary and History tour by Clang Garcia's Food Holidays and led by Cavite 
native Ige Ramos, we were assured that we would be visiting (and eating from) as much of this historic province's enduring culinary landmarks as could be fitted into our one-day tour.  
Ige rued that while Cavite has many eateries and dining places that serve  traditional recipes,
 most of these were relatively unknown, except to the Caviteños.
By introducing these places to us non-Caviteños, he hoped that they would reach a new and wider audience. 

Food Holidays'  jeepney-on-steroids and our ride for the day parked in the spacious compound of the ancestral home of the Tahimic family in Tanza, Cavite.  This is where the restaurant Calle Real is located,  run by the descendants of the original owners.

Our group was welcomed into our private own dining room where we were greeted by this lit neon sign.   Cavite hospitality at its warmest best at Calle Real!

Calle Real takes up the entire first floor of this old house.  The interiors are simple but very tasteful.
I loved the elegant chandelier hanging in the dining room.   Ige mentioned that ancestral homes in Cavite do not conform to the magnificent bahay-na-bato that we normally associate ancestral homes with.  Cavite's "ancestral mansions" according to Ige are not as grand and are more unostentatious. 

This is Ms Millie Tahimic Lozada, direct descendant of one of the two Tahimic brothers who 
owned this house.  Together with her husband, they have made Calle Real a showcase of traditional 
Cavite dishes.  Eating at Calle Real is much like being invited into a Caviteño's home, to enjoy 
a meal made from recipes handed down from generation to generation.

We enjoyed fork tender beef caldereta with thinly sliced fried camote on the side.  This was topped with grated cheese, something new to me but which is I suppose how caldereta is served in Cavite

Calle Real served a more modern version of pork binagoongan where deep fried liempo slices had 
been lightly covered with very good, not-too-salty sautéed bagoong.  Lightly blanched eggplant is
the perfect complement.

The dish that I found most unique -- and which Ige said was very traditional and common  -- was 
this noodle dish called "calandracas".  
First of all, I was struck by the name.  When I was young, my father used this word quite often, 
usually in reference to my "kalat" (messiness).  
"Ang dami mong calandracas!"  ("You have so much clutter!") he would say in exasperation, 
while surveying my unmade up room.  
Calle Real's calandracas, is slightly wet but not soupy made with sotanghon, bits of chicken, vegetables and pork.  It must have been cooked with shrimp broth since I could really taste the 
sweet-salty flavour of shrimp.  
Other variants exist,  Ige said some are soup based and use other types of noodles.  It would seem each Cavite family has their own version. 
What is the etymology of "calandracas"?  According to Ige, during Spanish times, when a death occurred in a family, neighbours  came together to help out and donate whatever they could afford.  
More often than not, this was in the form of food -- vegetables from their garden, some fish or 
shrimp caught that afternoon, maybe a chicken from their backyard.  
All these donations made it into one communal dish -- the bits and pieces of kindness and help that people gave to each other in times of distress. What an interesting back story for this Cavite specialty.

Ige said that cooking with squid ink is very common in Cavite -- he claims that Caviteños introduced the use of squid ink in food  to the Mexicans via the Galleon Trade.  We all know paella negra which is squid ink paella.   I enjoyed Calle Real's version -- so tasty, with full-on squid flavour.  It almost tasted as if the rice had been cooked in adobong pusit!

After that lunch of delightful Cavite dishes, Ms Millie invited us all to go upstairs and tour the 
rest of the house. 

If Calle Real is for groups and families and serves traditional home cooked Cavite favourites, 
Ms Millie has transformed the upstairs part of the house into a very comfortable hang out place 
for younger Caviteños.  A dainty table greets us as we go up the stairs and gives a hint of what's 
in store.

Isn't this just too charming?  The second floor of the ancestral Tahimic Mansion has taken on a new look!  Swathes of bright pink, baby pink, light pink, carnation pink -- all shades of pink  are festooned in between the antique furniture and decor.  This place is called ... what else but The Pink Table.

The rooms of the house which used to be the family's bedrooms and sitting rooms are now
small parlours where guests can sit, have coffee, iced drinks and light snacks.   The Pink Table 
is adorable --  girly, whimsical  and yes,  so instagram worthy! Notice the antique wooden chairs?

Here's how they blended the old with the new in this slightly bigger but oh-so-cozy room -- period chairs and the sofa are spruced up with chintzy floral cushions, pink velvet pillows and dark pink curtains. Notice the "sliding panels" on the window?  These are common in old houses and allow fresh,  cooling breezes  to flow through.  It's the pre-cursor of air-conditioning!

A small dining table has been placed in this room with pretty mint green walls.  Floral, lightly faded curtains add a country cottage touch.  Small frames with sayings such as "I love you a bushel, a peck and a hug around the neck"  keep the mood sweet and light.

I expected nothing less than these old fashioned coffee cups!  

These vintage  creamer and sugar sets certainly look very much at home at the Pink Table!

I was too full of calandracas and paella negra from Calle Real so I begged off from trying the cinnamon dusted churros served with Cavite's special chocolate eh.  I did try a cookie which reminded me of camachile biscuits.

Here's our entire tour group gathered in the delightful sala of the Tahimic Mansion, now also known as The Pink Table.  There is our host, Ms Millie seated on the leftmost --  most appropriately dressed in a pretty pink blouse and shiny pink flip flops.  
Who would have thought that I would find this enchanting and yes uber-pink coffee nook in the middle of Tanza, Cavite?

It was certainly a treat to have discovered  a local restaurant steeped in local culinary traditions 
plus a contemporary, cozy cafe' -- right in the same place.    Here's to Calle Real and The Pink Table ... old and new existing beautifully together!


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