Food and travel really go together. More and more tourists are planning their destinations around food, and local cuisine is playing a big part in food tourism in the country.
To help restaurant owners remain competitive, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) recently organized a media launch to share some of the food trends at Abe’s Farm in Pampanga and launch a series of online videos. You can read more about the 6 Food Trends to Boost the Philippine Dining Landscape in my article on Rappler and watch the #FoodTrends videos online.
It was my first time to visit Abe’s Farm, which is known for serving exotic Filipino food and in itself is a great foodie destination. After a two-hour ride from Manila, we arrived at the farm in Magalang, Pampanga located at the foothills of Mt. Arayat. The place, which has been around for over 30 years, is owned and managed by the LJC Restaurant group, the same group behind Café Adriatico , Café Havana, Bistro Remedios and Abé, so you can expect high quality food. The restaurant is an old house made from antique wood and bamboo that evokes old-style Pinoy hospitality. You feel like you’re eating in a relative’s house in the province.
Abe’s Farm also runs a resort and spa. The four-hectare farm has a swimming pool, sprawling gardens, Ifugao-style huts for those who want to stay overnight, and lots of amenities for events like weddings, workshops and meetings. But the country cuisine alone is worth the road trip.
Dish no. 1 was betute or deep-fried frog, one of the exotic specialties. The frog was surrounded with small servings or pako (fern and tomato salad), chicharon bulaklak and Spicy Sisig Pampanga. I’ve tried fried frog before on several occasions, but this one was prepared really well. The crunchy exterior was reminiscent of chicken, and the ground pork filling inside was seasoned really well. I would have finished this is if I wasn’t saving my appetite for the other dishes to come. The sweet and slightly acidic mango relish (forgot to take a photo) provided a good balance to the appetizer.
Next came a serving of Sinigang na Bangus sa Bayabas. Admittedly not as photogenic as the other dishes, but it was one of the most delicious things we were served. The soup was very hearty with the right mix of sour tamarind-flavored broth and sweet guava fruit. I thought the guava flavor made the milkfish taste creamier (almost like salmon) and the soup felt so comforting. I can imagine how this would be great for rainy days.
Waiters also brought out bamboo rice – fried mountain rice served inside a bamboo shell. While the rice was really good, it was also very heavy when paired with the viands. Plus points for the presentation though. The first viand was Binukadkad na Pla-Pla, crispy, deep fried whole fish in a butterfly cut and served with buro, or fermented rice.
Traditional Pinoy favorites were brought out like Inihaw na Baboy (grilled pork), served with spicy vinegar and atsara and Kare-Kare (stew made of oxtail in peanut sauce) served with bagoong. Because I was busy filling up on all the meat dishes, I barely got to taste the vegetable dishes like Bicol Express, laing and pinakbet.
They saved the best for last. As we were already starting to feel full, waiters brought out a huge serving of Crispy Pata topped with spicy chili and garlic. Who can say no to the crisp golden brown skin of crispy pata? I certainly can’t.
The chefs held a short demo to prepare dessert, which was Abe’s Farm signature Sikreto ni Maria, a generous serving of suman and fresh mangoes buried under a rich and creamy ice cream. To add a hint of sweetness, it was topped with shaved panutsa (cane sugar). I could eat this everyday for breakfast. The mild dessert was a nice palate cleanser after all the rich, savory Pinoy dishes.
We got to take home copies of the Soooo Pinoy Cookbook, which has some great recipes so we can attempt to recreate the food we just ate at home. Am not exactly the best cook (I have been known to ruin instant noodles before), but hopefully I get to use this sometime. In the meantime, I’ll just look forward to my next trip to Abe’s Farm and Pampanga, for another great serving of country cuisine.
ADDRESS & ADDITIONAL INFO:
- Abe’s Farm. 98 Livestock Village, Barangay Ayala, Magalang, Pampanga
- Restaurant hours: Open daily except Tuesdays, for lunch, merienda and dinner from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
- Link to their Full menu.
- For instructions on how to get to Abe’s Farm, please refer to map & more detailed instructions here.
- Website: http://abesfarm.com.ph/