With so many commercial developments sprouting around the metropolis, so too have novelty farm-to-table restaurants. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of bistros that cater to a discriminating market of diners who prefer organic, farm-grown, natural ingredients. Even so, there is a growing number of chefs who claim to only use farm-fresh ingredients from known organic suppliers.
If I were a chef, it would be a dream to simply pick herbs and produce from one’s backyard and create the most enchanting dishes. Years back, this idea was only once associated with destination cafes in Tagaytay like Sonya’s Garden.
The farm-to-table concept, which originated with Alice Waters and her Chez Panisse in California in the early ‘90s, puts back the premium on fresh food and local produce as inspirations for delectable recipes. Back then, you’d have to travel north to Napa Valley or Berkeley to get a good taste of these dishes and wait for hours for a table. But now, it’s interesting how farm-to-table dining has even pervaded fast food outlets like McDonalds and Pret-a-Manger in Britain and European countries. You wouldn’t believe that even McDonalds in the UK serves only beef from British-raised cows from organic farmers. The British believe that this is one way for business to support and sustain local farming.
Nowadays, with some luck, even Manila residents can enjoy farm-to-table cuisine sans the long drive. For so long, I had read about Margarita Fores’ restaurant called Grace Park. A bit wary that the place might be quite pricey, my friends and I finally decided that an occasion to celebrate a birthday would be worth the lunch at Grace Park.
And what an unexpected treat it turned out to be for all of us!
With its assorted selection of furniture, mismatched dinner plates, and vintage glasses, Grace Park was like a Bohemian woman in the middle of an upscale crowd. Yet, the meticulous arrangement of bric-a-bracs and eye-catching accent pieces still made the place seem organized despite odd things put together.
The menu, written on a chalkboard, is an extensive list of recipes made from produce available for that day or for a season in the local market. As we decided though for our main courses, we had the uni (sea urchin) and live shrimp spaghetti, roast duck, and the grilled salmon with its crispy skin. All these were delightful choices that had my friends and I picking from each one’s plates and wiping our own plates clean after.
The other farm-to-table restaurant that has also been quite popular lately is Green Pastures in Shangri-La Mall. Designed more like an Italian country kitchen, Green Pastures is also worth a visit. Then, there’s also Van Gogh is Bipolar in Teacher’s Village in Quezon City. Van Gogh café, which is listed on my must-try list, supposedly carries food selections that balance your depressive or manic moods. Nonetheless, the place does cater to a discriminating crowd of healthy diners.
With a seasonal menu, these farm-to-table restaurants may actually make their patrons keep coming back precisely because they offer something new and different all the time.
If the farm-to-table concept does gain more following, I certainly hope that the movement supports our local farmers, and maybe even encourage people to try their hand at backyard gardening and livestock raising again. But even better, with novel farm-to-table local restaurants, Filipino cuisine might just find its mark in the map of world cuisine.