Freshest. Finest. First. A Day at Gourmet Farms

Long before organic, farm-to-table and bean-to-cup became part of the mainstream, a pioneering farm in Silang planted the seeds for the now popular culinary movement.

Since the early eighties, Gourmet Farms introduced the novel organic, bean-to-cup and farm-to-table concepts to a local market hungry for new and unique dining experiences. The emerging popularity for food provenance or knowing where your food comes from and how it’s produced, reflected a growing desire to return to nature. And it all began here at Gourmet Farms. What started as a roadside diner along General Aguinaldo Highway in Silang has now grown into one of the country’s premier producers of gourmet local coffee, organically grown green produce, fresh herbs, indigenous herbal teas and a variety of salad dressings, sauces and dips. Read on for a peek at my day in Gourmet Farms…  

Located at Silang, Cavite, the sprawling 12-hectare estate of Gourmet Farms is a culmination of a vision that began fifty years ago in the early seventies. Inside the property, infinite stretches of fertile land are cultivated with endless rows of organically grown lettuce, arugula and fresh herbs.

The Country Store at Gourmet Farms greets diners with a bountiful harvest of the freshest produce, including an impressive selection of Kitchen Exclusives by Gourmet Farms with its fresh salad dressings, sauces and dips, their signature premium coffee offerings and new local herbal tea blends.

Gourmet Farms sparked a culinary movement, championing fresh organic produce now known as farm-to-table and the blossoming local coffee culture. Soon, Gourmet Farms became known for their rustic salads, pasta and pizza at their roadside diner. The sumptuous salad bar at Gourmet Cafe was the obvious attraction, gaining immediate popularity among diners with their extensive selection of salad greens and homemade dressings. The inspiring story of Gourmet Farms began with one man’s vision, Ernest de Leon Escaler, to be the top-of-mind brand for gourmet coffee, farm produce and kitchen exclusives that is proudly Filipino and at par with the world’s best. Looking back, Gourmet Farms clearly achieved what it set out to do. Continuous innovation keeps Gourmet Farms in step with the times. 

You can say those were the early salad days of Gourmet Farms. But it gets better. After a long early morning drive from the city, guests were welcomed with a refreshing beverage…

Gourmet Farms’ commitment to a healthy lifestyle is seen with its Livewell Program by offering good food and healthier choices leading to happier lives. To live well means to live simply by going back to basics with all-natural and organic produce. Start your own journey with a sip of Gourmet Farms’ GourJuice. Be sure to bring home a few bottles of Gourmet Farms’ GourJuice on the way back home.

Wooden crates filled to the brim with the day’s bountiful harvest of garden-fresh greens add a rustic vibe to The Country Store, showcasing the wide variety of the farms’ diverse produce. The organically-grown produce are freshly harvested, triple-washed and packed within 18-24 hours before delivery. From Lollo Rossa to Romaine Lettuce

Green Ice to an impressive array of fresh herbs like CorianderCurled ParsleyDillMintLemon BalmMarjoramAshitabaOreganoRosemarySageBasilTarragon and Thyme,  Gourmet Farms shows why it’s the country’s favorite farm basket for the freshest and finest produce.

It’s a tradition built on being the first organic and farm-to-table pioneer in the country. Here, farming is practiced the natural, old-fashioned way without the use of chemicals for a sustainable harvest. And you can experience this first-hand with the crisp and mildly sweet notes of their salad greens and vegetables. 

Enjoy pure freshness in a bottle with Gourmet Farms’ Kitchen Exclusives, an extensive line of salad dressings, sauces and dips. Freshly prepared and bottled two days before delivery, each bottle and jar reflects Gourmet Farms’ uncompromising commitment to quality and freshness. Complete your Gourmet Farms salad experience with their salad dressings like Balsamic VinaigretteFresh Herb VinaigretteGarlic DressingHerb Cheese DressingHoney Mustard DressingThousand Island DressingItalian Low-Calorie DressingMango VinaigretteMexican DressingOriental Dressing and Sicilian Dressing

…or liven up your pasta dish with their Cilantro PestoPesto GenoveseSun-Dried Tomato PestoPepperonciniAmatriciana SauceBolognese Sauce and Puttanesca Sauce. It’s always a good idea to have a few jars in the pantry for that quick pasta dish at home.

Packed in convenient bottles and jars, whipping a fresh salad or pasta dish at home is easy with Kitchen Exclusives by Gourmet Farms.

That day, we sampled a variety of dressings and sauces, including their equally wide selection of spreads like Roman Garlic SpreadHerb Cheese Spread and Salsa with another innovative product, the crisp and crunchy Lettuce Chips for a healthier alternative to snacking.

One bite and it’s game over. You just can’t stop once you start with the Lettuce Chips of Gourmet Farms. The rich green tones are a visual clue on the unique ingredients of the chips, delivering fresh, clean notes with subtle nutty and sweet hints. But the flavors come alive with a dip in one of the many freshly made sauces and dips from Gourmet Farms’ Kitchen Exclusives…

I remember one chef saying “freshness is flavor.” It really is. PestoSalsaSicilian and Mexican, each dip and sauce offers distinctive flavors. From nutty notes to refreshingly tart hints and indulgently creamy textures, the sauces and dips from Kitchen Exclusives are versatile additions to any home kitchen. And it just takes snacking to a whole new level.

The Lettuce Chips are the perfect way to sample the different variants from Gourmet Farms’ Kitchen Exclusives. The creamy and bright tartness of the Sicilian Dressing makes it a personal favorite, followed by the nutty flavors of Pesto and the bright flavors of Mexican and Salsa. The items also make great gift ideas.

The range of flavorful options and choices from Kitchen Exclusives, each one made from the freshest ingredients and masterfully blended by Gourmet Farms’ skilled chefs, will have you going on a shopping spree at The Country Store. It’s just one of many innovations that keep Gourmet Farms relevant in the modern marketplace. But despite the comings and goings of emerging food trends, freshness and quality remain the constant factors in an ever evolving culinary landscape. Food provenance remains at the core of Gourmet Farms’ enduring success.

The company behind Gourmet Farms began as coffee traders, and to this day, coffee runs deep in the Gourmet Farms’ brand DNA. Gourmet Farms was the first to introduce Philippine coffee beans to the world, and introducing the finest beans from the world’s different coffee growing regions to local consumers. Now, Gourmet Farms is the premier coffee roaster in the country with the impressive capacity to roast over 150 tons monthly (more on Gourmet Farms signature coffee on my next post, Masterfully Roasted: Coffee Culture and Gourmet Farms).   

Below The Country Store, The Dining Room is just a few steps away housed in an elegant California Mission style structure. The roadside diner from its early years, a rustic nipa hut, is now replaced by an imposing building. It’s a grand addition to the expansive farm property.   

The Dining Room at Gourmet Farms showcases vibrant Italian and Mediterranean cuisine using the freshest ingredients sourced directly from the farm. The wide open and spacious interiors makes it ideal for festive gatherings, functions and receptions. And The Dining Room’s kitchen offers a sumptuous feast for any occasion.

At the center of The Dining Room, a live pasta cooking station promised a hearty lunch. That day, a lavish spread featured tasty bites from Fresh Vegetable Wraps (L) to Al Funghi Crostini (R) using the farm’s fresh produce. Each bite reminds you once again that freshness is indeed flavor.

Crisp and lightly toasted crostini topped with fresh salsa offer even more vibrant flavors to our lunch, but there’s more…

The famous Salad Bar of Gourmet Farms is recreated at The Dining Room, triggering countless memories of leisurely weekend drives to Tagaytay. Back then, I still recall the basket-lined bowls at the Salad Bar of the roadside diner. Loaded to the brim, your bowl is weighed to determine the price. At the spread, Gourmet Farms’ finest produce are showcased at The Dining Room just like those early days…

…along with even more offerings including their signature Russian SaladPotato SaladMac and Cheese, roasted marble potatoes, salsa and grilled eggplant. The former roadside diner has evolved through the years, now offering an expanded menu. But each dish still reflects Gourmet Farms’ uncompromising commitment to quality and freshness. At Gourmet Farms, you get farm-to-table freshness everyday on your plate. It seems so many has changed through the years, but when you look closer, very little has changed. It’s still all about bringing the farm to your plate at Gourmet Farms. 

A bowl of clear fresh Mushroom Soup kicks off our lunch at The Dining Room. A sip of the light broth delivers the deep and earthy notes of fresh mushrooms, intensified even more by the tender slices of mushrooms.

For me, the salads were always the highlight of any trip to Gourmet Farms. That day, a plate loaded with their signature garden-fresh and crisp greens was just as flavorful as the day I first tried it so many years ago. It’s both reassuring and comforting that some things in the world remain unchanged. This is one of them. 

Green IceRomaine Lettuce and Arugula topped with fresh tomatoes, white onions, sweet corn and croutons draped in creamy Sicilian Dressing kicks off my salad feast. The salad greens are fresh and crisp, with a note of sweetness and a subtle hint of spice from the arugula. The nutty flavors of olive oil is tempered by just the right amount of tartness from the vinegar in the Sicilian Dressing. Just the day before, the fresh greens were still in the soil harvested early in the morning for the special lunch at Gourmet Farms. It just doesn’t get fresher than this.

On one side of the spread, savory slabs of Porchetta garnished with fresh herbs draws you closer…

The sight of deep bright red crackling on juicy pork never fails to trigger your appetite, and you’re just about ready for round two at The Dining Room. Perfectly tender and juicy and delicately seasoned capped by a lightly crisp layer of crackling, it’s time to pick up another plate… 

The station chefs carve up the roasted pork belly, slicing and chopping it to thin strips along with the crisp crackling. The Dining Room combines the sliced strips of porchetta with their fresh-baked Coffee Buns (R) in a hearty sandwich. How can you say no to Porchetta? 

The soft Coffee Buns are filled with tender slabs of juicy pork and crunchy crackling, slathered in rich and creamy dressing and topped with fresh greens and tart pickled onions. Each bite delivers contrasting flavors and textures, with the savory richness of the porchetta perfectly balanced by the pickled onions and fresh greens.  

The Dining Room clearly has a winner with this savory Porchetta Sandwich. Each of the components come together perfectly, from the soft coffee bun to the different layers of pork belly, fresh greens, creamy dressing and pickled onions.

The Porchetta Sandwich offers subtle and delicately balanced flavors without the overpowering notes of the usual savory sandwiches. It’s just one more reason to head out on that drive to Gourmet Farms.

The Salad Bar calls you once more, and a second serving of Russian Salad, Potato Salad, roasted marble potatoes, salsa, vegetable wraps and another Porchetta Sandwich rounds out a hearty lunch at The Dining Room.

The Dining Room also takes pride in their handmade pasta noodles. At the live Pasta Station, the noodles are cooked a la minute and mixed in a massive wheel of cheese infusing it with its indulgent richness. In just a few minutes, each noodle is coated with the cheese…

You can add a meaty Bolognese or nutty Pesto to your pasta dish, but the soft yet firm noodles are just perfect with just the cheese and a pinch of pepper. The cuisine at The Dining Room is rustic and comforting. When you have the freshest ingredients at the farm, it really doesn’t have to be complicated.  

One more plate of salad drizzled this time with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette caps my hearty lunch at The Dining Room. The Dining Room’s regular menu offers hearty soups like Tomato ParmesanVerdure and Crema de Zucca to appetizers like GambasSalpicaoGourmet Nachos and Calamari Fritti; salads like Crunchy KaleSilang Summer Salad and Rucola di Mango and comforting pasta like PrimaveraPesto SpecialePescatorePuttanescaCarbonaraFunghi and Ragu to savory mains like Salmone al FornoMediterranean LambPancetta alla GrigliaArrosto di Manzo and Gambas Risso. The Dining Room also serves pizza like their signature Gourmet PizzaMargheritaQuattro Formagi and the meaty Meatza. But save room for dessert…

The robust, full-bodied notes followed by the subtle floral hints of Gourmet Farms’ Premium Blend lines the palate with a deep and silky smooth richness, pairing well with the desserts at The Dining Room. One sip takes you back to the company’s beginnings as coffee traders.  

One more bite of the Churros and another sip of the freshly brewed cup of coffee ends my sumptuous lunch at The Dining Room. It was now time to tour the farm…

The 12-hectare estate is the first and largest local farm of leafy greens and herbs. Part of the estate includes their coffee nursery and coffee roasting facilities. In addition to the central farm, Gourmet Farms also manages several satellite farms to manage calendared planting and harvesting for bulk contract requirements for their clients’ year-round supplies. The growing list of clients now include prestigious hotels, leading supermarkets, restaurants, food chains, business institutions and coffee shop entrepreneurs.  

The grey and overcast skies didn’t dampen the lush and verdant colors of the farm. The gentle breeze sends the aromatic fragrance of fresh dill your way, as you head further down the trail. The farm is an ideal destination for families, providing insights and a first-hand look on food provenance. 

The uphill path takes you to a clearing revealing infinite stretches of land filled with leafy greens. This is where your favorite salad at The Dining Room comes from…

Endless rows of young Romaine Lettuce form long lines of vibrant greens drawing you even closer. The farm manages a tight schedule of planting and harvesting to ensure a continuous year-round supply of leafy greens and herbs. That bowl of fresh salad in your favorite hotel or restaurant may have been picked right here…at Gourmet Farms. 

A plot of land is prepped for the next crop, and after a few days, the seedlings will sprout in a continuous cycle of bountiful harvests at Gourmet Farms. At the heart of Gourmet Farms’ massive operations is their Corporate Social Responsibility advocacy for sustainable practices, fair trade and giving back to communities. It just makes a whole lot of sense to do things right at the farm. There’s just good vibes here at Gourmet Farms.

At the farm’s processing complex, the fresh harvest of salad greens are prepared for the retail trade with stacks of pre-mixed salads complete with dressing for delivery to supermarkets. The fresh-baked items of Gourmet Farms are also packed here for delivery to the metro’s leading supermarket chains. 

The long trails lead you to St. Joseph’s Sanctuary, the farm estate’s sacred space designed to nurture both spiritual growth and general wellness. The meticulously landscape half-hectare area features guest houses, a chapel, a conference center and an outdoor pavilion.

At St. Joseph’s Sanctuary, Gourmet Farms holds their special Solitudo, a 3-day holistic and silent retreat. Throughout the compound, guests can experience peace and tranquility surrounded by gardens. It’s a totally unique and immersive experience, not something I expected from a commercial farm.

This is just one of many surprises at Gourmet Farms. At the sanctuary, guests can enjoy the calm stillness and experience introspection with a renewed faith. You can say a visit to Gourmet Farms nourishes both the body and soul.

The thoughtful, zen-like and well-appointed accommodations of the guest houses make it ideal for meditation and reflection. The immersive experience takes you back to nature, surrounded by lush and verdant greens. Returning to nature becomes the whole point, after all, for visiting Gourmet Farms.

Through the intertwined branches of trees, continue your walk deeper in the garden…

…and discover serenity in a pond. It’s spots like these that make Gourmet Farms special. 

The calming sound from the fountain attracts some of the farm’s locals to the pond…

…keeping you company in your meditative experience. Who knew one could find a spot like this in a commercial farm?

St. Joseph’s Sanctuary completes your experience at Gourmet Farms. My day at Gourmet Farms was one filled fresh and rich flavors woven with a deeper understanding and appreciation of food provenance from the brand that started it all.

Today, the management team at Gourmet Farms ensures that the vision of Ernest de Leon Escaler continues to keep pace with modern times, staying relevant while remaining the top-of-mind brand for gourmet coffee, farm produce and kitchen exclusives.

Freshly harvested. Freshly picked. Freshly brewed. Gourmet Farms takes you back to nature with its organic farm-fresh produce and experience all-natural and real flavors. A cup of coffee started it all for Gourmet Farms. And it continues to soothe the palates of a new generation of consumers while spreading the farm-to-table concept to a wider market. That was my day at Gourmet Farms. It’s a unique experience that changes you, opens up both your mind and palate, and leaves you much better than before.

This article appeared on Dude4Food.