Friday, May 31, 2013

Celebrate Family Gatherings with Hillside Ranch's Premium Meats

You don't mess with the Tayags when it comes to food. Never. If you ever find yourself at Bale Dutung in Pampanga and describe the food as 'ok lang', you'd probably get a scathing letter from the MMDA chairman likening the restaurant to the gates of heaven, the title persona non grata from the Philippine government shortly after, and scathing remarks from indignant foodies with retorts like, "You know nothing about good food, Jon Snow!" That's also how you attract a Pinoy lynch mob, in case you were wondering.

It looks like the family of culinary geniuses have done it again, with the launch Hillside Ranch at Trellis last week. The young husband and wife team, Atoy and Chay Tayag of Angeles City, Pampanga, both from famous foodie clans in the province (Atoy is Claude Tayag's nephew, while Chay's mother owns the famous Binulo Restaurant in Clark) decided to apply their years of expertise to make dishes that would rival what restaurants can produce - right in your own home!

If the Hillside Ranch name sounds familiar, it may probably be because you buy their sandwiches at Salcedo's Farmer's Market on Saturdays. Their French Dip consists of thin slices of Hillside Ranch's Beef Belly sandwiched in between layers of mini baguettes.

My favorite sandwich is the Reuben - layers of Hillside Ranch's Corned Beef Brisket are served with a generous layer of sauerkraut and a dollop of horseradish between rye. This is probably the closest thing to the New York institution, Katz's, that I've tasted in Manila.

After letting our sandwiches digest a little bit, and chatting up our generous hosts, Atoy, Chay, Dino and Jom. You can order the pre-packed goodness of the beef belly and corned beef brisket at Trellis, and either heat it up in the oven or in a microwave.

Atoy and Chay make everything themselves, from start to finish. They patiently cure the brisket in chillers for an entire week before boiling it, just to ensure that the brine completely penetrates the meat. Try getting that out of a can or in your supermarket frozen section! The belly, they slow roast for six whole hours. The result is bites so fresh, tender, and moist that you’d be hard-pressed to make anyone believe you got it from a reheated pack.

After a while, we then made our way to the carving station where we were presented with  this marvelous-looking Corned Beef Brisket. Who wouldn't go gaga for that? This was the apple of my eye - I would cover the thick, tender slices of corned beef with horseradish, with a few carrots, beans, and potatoes on the side. And then do it again, and again, and again.

Everyone then proceeded to go gaga over the humongous slab of Beef Belly that was being carved at the other end of the table. Chay may be petite, but she definitely knows how to wield that huge carving knife! Holy shiz, she was like an iron chef the way she cut that beef belly up!

I loved that the beef belly served with polenta, and proceeded to slather my meal with gravy made from the juice of the said magnificent piece of meat. Taking it to the next level, we cut up a thick slab and seared it on the grill where the sandwiches were made, a sort of beef belly steak if you will. I think it tasted even better. I know, I can be such a porker when I try. In my defense, I did share the beef belly steak with Jericho!

Our hosts weren't through with us yet, and send us home with packs of Beef Belly and Corned Beef Brisket to try ourselves. The next day, I turned half of my corned beef brisket into a lovely Sinigang na Corned Beef, and the other half into my own version of a Reuben sandwich - with horseradish, some mustard, and sauerkraut. The meat had already been pre-cooked and all I needed to do was let the pack sit in hot water for around 20 minutes and I had perfect corned beef! I'd suggest this method as opposed to sticking it in the microwave, as you'd essentially strip the meat of all of its nutrients and get stuck with the tough, stringy litid. You don't want litid, you want tender, pink slabs of perfectly marbled beef.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the beef belly came pre-packed with a peppercorn gravy. Instead of thinning it out with water, I caramelized a small onion, added sliced button mushrooms and a glass of red wine and reduced everything, turned it into a beautiful, rich gravy. This is a dish best enjoyed with a big baked potato or buttered rice, and some colorful veg. Easy peasy.

And this is yet another reason why you don't mess with 'em Tayags. Not only is everyone in that family a creative prodigy, they make people who have no time (or skill) to cook, look good, too!

So when you're mucking around Manila in search of a quickfire meal at home for guests or your own enjoyment, pick up a pack of corned beef brisket or beef belly at Trellis, or hunt them down at Salcedo Market the next time you find yourself there. I'm eagerly waiting for the next occasion to be celebrated at home, just so I can whip up my Beef Belly with Red Wine Reduction Gravy or a mean Sinigang na Corned Beef!

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel

Hillside Ranch
For inquiries, contact
+63 917 531 9951 (Dino Tayag)
+63 917 530 1251 (Jom del Rosario)

Corned Beef Brisket Sliced (225g) - P220
Corned Beef Brisket Slab (650g) - P550
Slow-Roasted Beef Belly Sliced (225g) - P220
Slow-Roasted Beef Belly Slab (650g) - P550
Slab Orders (advanced notice) - P770 per kilo for either brisket or belly

Initially available in selected supermarkets in Pampanga and Baguio simultaneously with Manila pickup points in Trellis restaurants in Quezon City, Makati, as well as home pickup in Valle Verde 5, Pasig and Greenhaven Townhomes, QC near Greenhills.