Nurture’s president Cathy Turvill had always admired Raintree head honcho Annabel Wisniewski for the group’s world-class level of hotel and restaurant operations. Turvill admitted that despite positive customer feedback, Nurture’s food service needed an overhaul. This could only be accomplished by a hospitality industry veteran such as Raintree.
After the long lockdown that resulted in losses and massive retrenchment in both companies, the enterprising women decided to do business together and create opportunities for livelihood.
“Farmer’s Table was inspired by our travels to Sonoma County, Napa Valley and Tuscany. We’ve always loved countryside restaurants,” said Annabel.
The restaurant’s rustic style of ceiling drapes, dark wooden furniture and clay tile flooring was upgraded into a streamlined, modern country design, characterized by neutral colors, an injection of the industrial look and indoor plants. Surrounded by a lush landscape, the open-air facility can accommodate a socially distanced group of 180.
Raintree likewise gave priority hiring to Nurture’s displaced employees who met its standards.
Indulgent but nutritious
Martin Wisniewski, Raintree’s vice president, envisioned the concept of romanticizing the farm-fresh ingredients while offering diverse menu choices, from plant-based meals to indulgent dishes that cater to the preferences of each family member.
When a family came during the soft opening in April, the father enjoyed the bulalo (bone marrow stew) while the mother ordered the vegan kale Caesar salad with tofu croutons. The son ate spaghetti with garlicky tinapa (smoked fish), malunggay (moringa) pesto, kale and cherry tomatoes.
The repertoire is typical of Tagaytay restaurants—a mix of Filipino and international cuisines. Farmer’s Table sets itself apart by infusing the local dishes with exotic spices and artfully plating them.
While Raintree introduced its popular innovations and upgraded Gabriela’s staples, Turvill guided the company on the health benefits of herbs and vegetables so that the recipes are nutritious and aligned with Nurture’s wellness philosophy.
Martin also considered the market appeal.
“We have to put in the Tagaytay favorites. No. 1 is the bulalo with an upgrade,” he said. The beef bone marrow is simmered for hours to make the broth more intense. It’s loaded with vegetables and gotu kola, an herb that enhances brain power. There’s no tallow floating on the broth.
“Other restaurants serve ginataang langka (young jackfruit stewed in coconut milk). Our version is like the Thai green curry with more vegetables,” he added.
Farmer’s Table variations of Tagaytay’s top-selling milkfish are given a global flair. The grilled bangus is served with two sauces, the garlicky herb chimichurri and the peppery sambal sauce, while the classic bangus a la pobre is complemented by the meaty salpicao dip.
Raintree corporate chef Kalel Chan differentiates the steak from other restaurants by adding drama: The smoked US beef ribs with guava barbecue sauce are served on top of a clay pot with steaming coals.
Since wood-fired pizza is part of most farm-to-table menus, Chan paid homage to Nurture Farmacy and Tagaytay with a pizza topped with superfoods such as malunggay pesto, kale and pansit-pansitan, an anti-inflammatory herb. The candied walnuts and gorgonzola add richness.
The brunch items offer such favorites as the classic Tagaytay breakfast of dried fish, native sausage and garlic rice and Raintree’s famous ube champorado—purple yam jam with white chocolate, coconut milk with tres leches sauce and fried danggit (spinefoot fish).
Instead of the usual tapsilog (beef jerky, rice and egg), the bacon and eggs pizza can be had. The Middle Eastern shakshuka (“mixture” in Tunisian), made of poached eggs on spicy tomato stew and labneh (cheese from yogurt), has been a big hit.
Hard-core health buffs can enjoy the truffle mushroom adlai porridge or the soy burger with mushroom, which can be served without a bun if they don’t like gluten.
The most popular dessert is the warm and moist dark chocolate dough on a skillet, contrasted with the cooling mantecado ice cream.
Some of the well-loved fare from Gabriela have been restyled. The best-selling kalderetang osso buco is beef shank stewed with vegetables and potatoes and topped with pesto and pecorino cheese from Malagos farm in Davao.
Gabriela’s seared salmon on a bed of sliced lemon is now a salmon fillet, combined with Middle Eastern influences such as za’atar, a mixture of savory dried herbs, and soumac, a tangy spice and labneh.
The fish and chips are battered in beer for a crispier and lighter taste. The mango sushi is dipped in Amadeo tablea chocolate, thickened with peanut butter.
Martin pointed out that the extensive beverage list of smoothies, hot drinks, cocktails and spirits and the upcoming breads and pastries can attract clients who merely want refreshments and plan to dine somewhere else.
“While many restaurants in Tagaytay offer the similar items, Raintree presents them in a sophisticated way. It elevates our dining experience to a higher level,” said Turvill. —BY MARGE C. ENRIQUEZ