Nurture Wellness Village, Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II, Tagaytay, Cavite
Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Sunday
(SPOT.ph) You’ve heard the term before—you’ve probably even seen some pretty spreads on Instagram of fresh, seasonal ingredients, rotating in and out with the seasons. The era of farm-to-table has been a long time coming, and while we’re still crawling along towards a more sustainable state of dining, the progress nevertheless appears to be steady for now.
Farmer’s Table, itself a farm-to-table concept, also had to take its time—out of necessity, because 2020 was A Thing That Happened—but it definitely got where it needed to be, and where we all needed it to be, in the end.
It’s difficult to imagine it after the turbulent year Tagaytay has had while we are all also at the juncture between managing a global health crisis and inching towards herd immunity, but for the Raintree Hospitality Group, these hurdles have only made the accomplishment of opening a new establishment all the more meaningful. According to the company’s chairperson Annabella Wisniewski, it was “a unique opportunity… to help alleviate the plight of many struggling people through job creation,” and to boost community morale with the project.
Both points are evident in the execution; Farmer’s Table is an expansive, multifaceted project—far more than just a restaurant, requiring more than the average number of busy hands. (It must be said, too, that restaurants on their own are certainly no joke.) Divided up into three sections—the Boutique Market, the Artisanal Bakery, and the Al Fresco Garden Bistro—it’s really more of a destination to take your time in than your Tagaytay stopovers of old were.
The Al Fresco Garden Bistro is where you'll find the main dining area; the tables are spaced out so diners can eat in relative safety, with the added bonus of everyone getting a good breeze when it hits. The woven ceiling centers the trees dotted about the floorspace, while mixed textures of wood, rattan, and patterned upholstery draw the eye out and around. Meanwhile, the Boutique Market stocks not only signature products from Nurture Wellness Village, but also the fresh weekend harvests from their organic farm, as well as those from other farms and growers within a three-kilometer radius. And that’s where the fun really begins.
By “fun,” we mean the gastronomic gauntlet thrown down by Farmer’s Table. Many a city slicker will dismiss healthy eating as a sort of punishment for all the times we’ve enjoyed our meals, and if you really look at it, there’s something toxic about that mindset in and of itself. At this al-fresco paradise, they aim to blur those lines for everyone. Corporate chef Kalel Chan says of the endeavor, “Tagaytay is known for comfort food… so you can’t discount that people will look for that. The owner of Nurture Wellness has been checking if we’ve struck a balance between what’s healthy and [what people know to be comforting], and so far, we’ve achieved that.” From the homemade labneh to the rosemary-doused roast chicken, there’s little room for doubt.
Although they’ve managed to make about 80% of their menu with local ingredients, Chan admits that some things are still shipped in from elsewhere for quality’s sake—but that’s something the Raintree Group hopes will change over time. Until then, there are plenty of must-tries.
For starters, there's the Roasted Harissa Meatballs (P375). Harissa, a spicy paste with roots in Tunisia, typically lands somewhere between a deep smokiness and sharp tang; accompanied by herb mozzarella-stuffed meatballs, and you’ve got a combination that just can’t lose.
The Hothouse Crispy Cauliflower & Broccoli (P275) is something of a guessing game when it arrives, given that the broccoli and the cauliflower pops look the same with the crunchy breading, but that keeps it from being monotonous—as if the spicy buffalo and bleu cheese dips didn’t already make things interesting. Cauliflower done right can be very reminiscent of chicken, which means that you absolutely can trick your children (and some grown adults, TBH) into eating vegetables. We will happily go along with the charade, knowing that this dish almost always finds its way onto a table.
“There’s really something for everybody,” Chan says, and that is a principle best demonstrated in the Char-Grilled U.S, Beef Cheeseburger (P595) and its fraternal soy- and mushroom-based twin, the House-Made Grilled Plant-Based Burger (P495). According to Raintree's vice president, Martin Wisniewski—who’s crunched the numbers, so you can trust this—they’re equally popular. Color us impressed!
A seat overlooking the gardens comes highly recommended; not only are you guaranteed some much-needed botany, but you’ve also won the chance to spot a chef running out with a pair of shears. (That’s how fresh it gets at this place.) Pair those visuals with their version of a Full English (P695) breakfast, and you might not want to leave. It doesn’t seem to stray very far from the old Anglo-Saxon tradition—at least, not much more than Her Royal Majesty’s loyal subjects have done. Bacon rashers, check; bangers, check; baked beans, double check; rosemary mushrooms—like, sign us up, already.
It’s worth repeating that the food is not all there is, though it’s certainly a big enough draw. It’s a gorgeous expanse of green that can soothe the soul as well as the food can soothe your insides, if you let it; that the dining space is completely al fresco is just another major perk. “Outdoor dining is the way to go, at least for the next two to three years. We’re still going to be wearing masks; some people, even if they’re vaccinated, are still going to be a little paranoid about gathering indoors. But [those same people] are going to be more open to healthier [choices, like] farm-fresh food. That’s what I think,” says Wisniewski. If you feel safe enough to plan a quick getaway and follow the necessary precautions—as always—Farmer’s Table has a seat for you.
Photos courtesy of Farmer's Table
this strange new world.