The Department of Tourism’s Kain Na! Food and Travel Festival was aptly showcased recently at the Ayala Serin Mall in Tagaytay City, Cavite from December 9 to 12.
This edition is dubbed “Traveling Flavors” highlighting the quincentennial celebrations in the Philippines particularly toward the galleon trade which facilitated the meeting and melding of Eastern and Western flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques that have left an indelible mark on the Filipino culinary landscape.
For several years, Kain Na! has headlined the country’s agriculture and culinary attractions in various cities all over the country. In partnership with Ayala Malls, a showcase has brought the staging of Kain Na! in 2018 at Ayala Mall Legazpi, Albay. Then It was formally launched in Ayala Abreeza Mall in Davao City in the same year. There were a total of 19 legs, including this year, of Kain Na events conducted in different parts of the country.
“While inbound tourism remains restricted at the moment in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the presence of continuing discussions on Filipino flavors and food tourism experiences remain among the best ways to keep the Philippines in the hearts and minds of tourists and travelers whom we welcome with a burst of fun, flavors once the situation safely allows,” said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.
A quick tour of discovery was provided by way of a regional showcase held at Ayala Serin where a total of 11 physical booths of Bicol, CALABARZON, Muntinlupa, Western and Eastern Visayas, CARAGA and Zamboanga showed their local products, both traditional and novel, ranging from fresh produce to processed food.
This run of the Kain Na! also brought back its signature food webinars, namely Global Prospectives, Food Tourism Exchange, and Food Tourism 101, as well as three virtual symposia, which tackled cultural influences in the food and gastronomy of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
In Tagaytay, the event promised to tickle all senses, focusing on the old and the new of the city’s culinary wonders borne from its rich soil and ideal climate.
Just a little over an hour’s drive from the Metro, Tagaytay is the most popular weekend haunt of city slickers. Its main draw, of course, is the Taal Volcano. Not extinct, its last eruption was in January 2020 that contributed to the loss of business of many, especially when the lockdowns were imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that restrictions have eased with very few cases reported, Tagaytay and its environs are back with a vengeance, and the wonders never cease.
Food tasting a taste of single origin coffee at Siglo
Siglo Modern Filipino restaurant serves food inspired by different regional cuisines. They promote with the use of heirloom ingredients like adlai, siling labuyo, batuan, barako coffee, among others. Presented dishes were: Pinadobo Lagitik a homestyle version of stewed pork belly in soy with sweet Tagaytay pineapple vinegar; Farmer’s salad with caramelized shallots and dragon fruit in pineapple vinaigrette dressing; Siglo Pick-a-bite, a selection of appetizers like Tinapa (smoked fish) roll, Samosa style Laing Dinamita, Shanghai and ‘Dynamite’ roll; Laing Tulingan (bullet tuna on taro leaves cooked in coconut cream), native bulalo with talinum greens (a plant that lowers cholesterol level); Siglo’s skewers as appetizers (with crushed peanuts and dragon fruit).
Tucked away in a corner adjacent to the pool is its single origin (unblended) coffee bar, Siglo Brew. With its cool and cozy ambience, it serves different local coffee varieties from Bukidnon to Batangas to the Luzon highlands, a total of 8 varieties for the coffee connoisseur. The place is also popular for its craft beer, however, this pandemic period the bar only opens from Thursday to Sunday.
Ecotherapy at Nurture Wellness Village
Nurture Wellness Village provided us a re-introduction to organic farming and food tasting using their fresh produce. Promoting ‘ecotherapy” from spa services down to its healthy cuisine, the resort and spa has been serving its clientele for the past 20 years. The resort added the Nurture Farmacy to help expand its advocacy in promoting health and wellness. The farmacy also serves to educate guests of farm to table foods, how vegetable and fruits are grown and their health benefits. It also provides a wide range of activities for its guests like a tour of the Phytotherapy and Botica ni Lola gardens, cooking demos, among others.
Its latest partnership is with Raintree’s Farmer’s Table, a venue where guests can partake of healthy food where ingredients are sourced right from the resort’s farm.
A sample of the extensive menu were a refreshing and nutritious drink of kale and pineapple smoothie followed by appetizers of cauliflower and broccoli bits coated with buffalo (tangy, spicy, buttery) sauce served with blue cheese dip, and crispy kale chips with pesto mayo dip. Lahbne, a mediterranean yogurt salad with arugula and tomatoes, complemented the main course of fried bangus (milk fish) topped with chimichurri and sambal sauces while the famous bulalo (beef shank) soup that was boiled 3 to 4 hours to make it more tender were among the dishes presented.
The herb garden of the village provides the ingredients of most of their culinary needs, such farm-to-table concept is well suited for the resort’s nutritional offerings.
More projects are in the pipeline for the Nurture Wellness Village and the management are intent to grow continuously with more collaborations.
“We want to focus on expanding our partnership with Raintree and adding more rooms,” said Cathy Turvill,” president of Nurture Wellness Village.
Cultural tourism at Shambala Silang
Just opened to the public last January, Shambala (Sanskrit word meaning “place of peace and tranquility”) banners arts and culture besides its innovative cuisine in its two restaurants. It follows the advocacy of its owner, Riza Matibag-Muyot, espousing slow food using traditional cooking methods in bringing out the best in Filipino heirloom cuisine with garden-grown ingredients.
The 2-hectare property features six Ifugao huts brought in from Bangaan, Mayoyao, Sagada, and Bontoc in the Mountain Province for guests to stay in. Equipped with some indigenous materials, some amenities were added to ensure a comfortable stay.
The place was a private retreat for relatives and friends for many years until the pandemic when an understanding of the need for mental and spiritual balance was reached by Muyot and she opened Shambala.
Over lunch and snacks of Adobo sa Dilaw, fried Lumpiang Ubod, and the omnipresent bulalo, Muyot also recalled the early developments wherein she brought in ten authentic Ifugao workers who did the layout of the terrain by hand without any machinery. Presently, one Ifugao remains to maintain the authenticity of the huts and the landscape.
The highland connection is also reflected when visitors enter Shambala’s museum. A collection of indigenous artifacts like swords, blades and weaves are mostly from her personal collection. The centerpiece of the museum is the century-old long chair with bulols (Ifugao’s rice gods) wood sculpture reflecting the owners support for indigenous arts and crafts.
Innovative food products and cuisine at Gourmet Farms
One of the pioneer coffee farms in Silang, Cavite, it started out as a coffee farm in 1978. Over the years, owner Ernest Escaler then expanded into herbs and vegetables until it reached its present status as an organic farm.
We just toured a small part of the 11-hectare expanse where we were shown where the coffee was stored and processed as well as several herbs and the vegetable field.
A popular feature is the Gourmet Farm restaurant and retail store where travelers and guests can purchase the farm’s products from single origin and blended coffee, tea, breads, cookies, and salad dressings. The restaurant is also a popular stopover for road travelers where we were treated to a delicious pasta dish.
Luntiang Republika Ecofarms – An integrated organic farm
Luntiang Republika offers variety of interests in agri-tourism. With knowledge in agriculture, owners Ed and Hilda Cleofe offer the farm as site for learning different production and processing technologies. The sustainable organic farming system in the operation has gained popularity that made them decide to open the farm for tourism with intent of sharing their knowledge in farming until they became the word of mouth for supplies of organic produce.
The farm is also equipped with amenities to accept guests who would like to experience how it is to live in an organic farm, including a hike to the Catmon river, just below the farm. Guests can engage in farm activities such as animal feeding, pick and pay, river trek and setting up a bonfire. A multi-purpose hall is available for meetings and seminars.
Presently, they have 3 types of accommodations (farmhouse type) that can fit from 2 to 8 persons. For outdoor enthusiasts, camping grounds are available. As for dining, everyone takes their place in the farm’s dining area, family style. There’s also a makeshift sauna facility to soothe tired muscles after the day’s activities in the farm.
Another feature of the farm is they go on value-added farming. Its wide variety of products include soaps and shampoo bars re-processed from its organic produce, bottled sauces and juices, even rare plants like Hoyas and Vanilla vines. Their son also ventured in ice cream making business starting with three flavors, marketing it online.
As part of their agri-training program, Luntiang Republika also breeds pigs, chickens, rabbits, and geese using organic farming methods. According to the owners the livestock can also be part of the menu by special request.