Trying out the healthy-delicious entrées at Farmer’s Table Tagaytay is another good reason for a leisurely road trip
People frequent Tagaytay for many reasons. Only an hour-and-a-half drive from Manila, the holiday town is an easier-to-visit version of Baguio City. Incredibly alike, both are surrounded by forests of pine trees and open grasslands and have this neither-too-hot-nor-too-cold weather, perfect for relaxation. The similarity between the two is so striking that Tagaytay is considered the “Second Summer Capital of the Philippines.”
Part-Cavite, part-Batangas, but really a component city in the province of Cavite, Tagaytay is also famous for its breathtaking scenery and rolling terrain. On a high altitude, it sits on a ridge, overlooking Taal Lake and its volcano island. Manila folks, like me, always look forward to a road trip to Tagaytay, which sometimes sits on a cloud of mist, like a fairy tale town.
The recent opening of Farmer’s Table Tagaytay, an eco-centric restaurant, is another excuse to go on a leisurely trip to this prized destination. This is the first ecotherapy dining spot Raintree Hospitality Group has launched in Tagaytay and it has done so, embarking on such a venture, amid these challenging times. The company is responsible for some of the best and innovative brands in the food and beverage industry, such as Izakaya Sensu, Providore, Chotto Matte, M Café, and Saboten, to name a few.
Nurture Wellness Village, a pioneer in the local spa industry, collaborated with the renowned hospitality and food service organization to make Farmer’s Table possible. Co-owner and president of Nurture Wellness Village, Cathy Brillantes-Turvill, wanted to elevate the dining experience for the holistic hub, which ultimately led to the partnership. Farmer’s Table now occupies the part that used to be Gabriela, the wellness center’s former in-house restaurant.
The economic impact of the ongoing global health crisis notwithstanding, Raintree has seized the opportunity to step up and create the farm-to-table, 100 percent al fresco dining establishment.
“[Coming up with a new concept] became more meaningful during the pandemic as we are able to help alleviate the plight of many struggling people through job creation and, at the same time, help lift the low morale of the community through a new and vibrant project,” says Raintree Hospitality Group president Annabella Wisniewski. The idea, according to her, was inspired by travels to Sonoma County, Napa Valley, and Tuscany, all of which boast of quaint, country-style food haunts nestled in gardens, orchards, and vineyards.
“We know a lot of our guests from our Manila restaurants could not travel abroad or even to farther provinces, so we thought this would be the perfect al fresco, pandemic-friendly kind of place. Tagaytay is close enough to Metro Manila to travel for the day or the weekend where most city dwellers could get much-needed breathing space and indulge in tasty, fresh food,” says Raintree Hospitality Group vice president Martin Wisniewski.
Martin is proud to say that all of the ingredients are grown at Nurture Farmacy, the wellness village’s own farm. He also highlights that when not available at Nurture’s self-grown farms and herb gardens, the produce and products are sourced from surrounding areas, such as the beef and seafood from Batangas, coffee and longanisa from Amadeo in Cavite, and booze from the local brewery Monkey Eagle.
Right at the opening of the natural healing sanctuary, the restaurant is very easy to spot, just a couple of meters away from the gate. The open-air structure has a rustic style, with industrial touches tamed by the surrounding greeneries. The ambiance imparts a calming feeling, total chill, like a long, interminable summer afternoon. It can accommodate up to 180 persons, even with social distancing observed.
The main concept revolves around living the locavore way, focusing on fresh and sustainable produce that is good for the body and mind.
The facility has three sections. The Boutique Market serves local delicacies and Nurture Wellness signature products. It also houses the weekend pop-up store, which features the freshest fruits and vegetables from the locale. Meanwhile, the Artisanal Baker has fresh bread and pastries, coffee, and a juice bar. Last, the Garden Bistro is where the main dining hall and events garden terrace are, the perfect venue for intimate celebrations and small gatherings or meetings away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The menu is extensive. There is something for all sizes of appetites, thanks to restaurateur and seasoned chef Kalel Chan, who developed the dishes. The main concept, however, revolves around locavore dining, whose focus is on fresh and sustainable produce that is good for the body and mind. Most of the ingredients, Chef Kalel emphasizes, come from within a radius of two to three kilometers from the restaurant.
From the extensive opening menu, the boys, Martin and Kalel, recommend the Hothouse Cauliflower and Broccoli, a vegetarian-friendly take on buffalo wings, nicely seasoned with a spicy buffalo sauce and with exceptional coating. Piquant enough, it burns the mouth, but in an addictive way. It also has a meat-like texture that masks the fact that it is made of vegetables.
So far, there are three available salads—A Big Bowl Salad, House-made Labneh and Fresh Tomato Salad, and the Plant-based Kale Caesar Salad, which was the one we had when we came to try out the restaurant. Kale, a nutritional powerhouse, is mixed with Romain lettuce, fresh basil, tofu croutons, crispy garbanzos, and capers, relished with cashew caper lemon Caesar dressing.
One of our hosts, Marc Dela Cruz of MG Asia Public Relations Inc., seemed to like the Smoked Tinapa Cream Croquetas. The briny delicacy is topped with Tobiko and served with tartar sauce, fresh dill, and lemon. It’s easy to finish platter after platter of this full-flavored but light snack.
My personal favorite would be Truffled Mushroom, Bacon, Egg Fettucine. This pasta dish combines elegance and comfort with its rich, earthy, and creamy taste. Perfect to pair with the stone-fired pizzas, of which we had the Margherita’s Garden composed of fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano, arugula, and Malagos Pecorino. It is a light-flavored stellar pie.
Since we’re talking about Tagaytay, there is also bulalo. Unfortunately, I was unable to try this. What I’ve heard is that their Bone Marrow Bulalo is made with bone broth slow-cooked on low heat and a piece of big bone marrow, topped with Baguio beans, three kinds of corn, potatoes, and napa cabbages. I will definitely try it on my next visit.
Other must-try items are the Mr. Jones Tapa, the restaurant’s version of the Pinoy breakfast classic, and the Grilled Za’atar Crusted Salmon Fillet, an aromatic Mediterranean dish perfect for summer.
For refreshments, the bestseller is the Signature Pineapple Kale Smoothie, a revitalizing beverage that consists of Nurture Farm’s kale, fresh pineapples, and mint. We also had a glass of housemade Sago’t Gulaman and the Coconut Melon Tropical Punch. The latter is a choice drink by another one of our hosts, Gemma Batoon of MG Asia Public Relations Inc.. Both gulaman and punch were served in a glass big enough to be shared by two people. There is also the option to order a pitcher of any of these beverages. Of course, there’s a wide selection of artisanal coffee.
For a worthy finish, two decadent desserts are recommended. The Banana Hazelnut French Toast with Peanut Brittle and Fresh Cream, for me, hit the spot. As for Manila Bulletin lifestyle editor AA Patawaran, the Mango Suman “Sushi” was just the right way to bring a humble merienda staple up several notches in sophistication.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Farmer’s Table is located at Nurture Wellness Village, Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II, West Cavite, Tagaytay City. +63 905 387 7993 | 0960 928 3142 | [email protected] | Facebook page: @farmerstabletagaytay | Instagram: @farmerstabletagaytay