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Showing posts with label Batangas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Batangas. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Art of Vegan Cuisine At its Wholeness

“From the farm to the table” sums up the idea that prevails at Alive. First time visitors will experience vegan dishes never seen or tasted before at this “rawvolutionary” restaurant in The Farm, so aptly called Alive, located at Lipa, Batangas. In the middle of the forest-like ambience of The Farm I discovered a quiet, unassuming shaded struc­ture conducive for rejuvenation and relaxation. This terraced structure is surrounded by greeneries and a small lake, offering privacy and peace of mind. An occasional visit from the resident peacock is not at all an intrusion as it’s clucking and flapping simply blends with the harmony of leaves rustling, birds chirping, and water splashing from the nearby water fountain. Its location in the center of The Farm already emphasizes the significance of its role in the whole “back to natural” program. Alive restaurant is the physical nutrition aspect of The Farm lifestyle, where every­thing is served, fresh, natural, and well, alive.
 Plant energy
Starting the day with the right kind of food to feel good and energized makes a lot of sense to me.  I cannot argue that my food selection will determine the amount of energy I will have for the day, so it only makes sense to be wise about my choices. Fortunately, at Alive, dishes are prepared carefully and thoughtfully with maximum nutrition in mind. Every meal is special, nothing is regular. The menu changes every day – to be more specific-- every meal. Freshness determines the amount of nutrition in a single produce. Being alive, plants mature every minute and so the amount of energy it can provide varies too, especially depending on the time it is har­vested, prepared, and served on the table. The aim of Alive is to make sure the time to accomplish all these steps is minimized to preserve the nutrition value of each dish until it is finally presented to the happy and hungry recipient.  
Cream cheese made from cashew nuts, cereals made from dehydrated and sweetened coconut, spicy bacon from coconut slivers, burger and pate made from lentils – the menu intrigued me. The jams, made from mashed fruit and honey, especially the lusciously rich mango, makes me adamant about not going back to the unnaturally processed regular jams again.
The granola with nut milk is something to rave about as well. I would have gobbled up this tasty treat without regard to nutri­tion anyway even if I hadn’t known it was made from sweetened dehydrated coconut with almond nuts, walnuts, pine nuts, and raisins then infused with nut milk.  That was just breakfast. Lunch and dinner come as set meals with a choice on the main course. Lunch was divine, starting with an Asian crab cake appetizer with cilantro mayonnaise and tomato green mango tartar quickly followed by a Thai tomato soup with cilantro and a crispy vegetable salad with almond butter sauce. For the main course, I was given a choice between Vietnamese pho and potato crusted tofu cutlet on jungle curry. After a moment’s agony, I decided to sample the flavors of Hanoi. What looked like noodles in the Vietnamese Pho were actually coconut slivers. It made me think more highly of the coconut as a wonder fruit, being so versatile as an alternative to noodles, bacon, cereal and more. The refreshing meal was topped off with a mango and chocolate sundae with lemongrass sauce.


I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t find coffee in themenu. Alive does not believe in caffeine fixes because of its obvious not-too-healthy properties. The chef explains that taking coffee speeds up the adrenalin unnaturally thus, it also drains you quickly after. For the caffeine junkies, fear not. Alive seeks not only to nurture but to please. Coffee is served on special request for those who absolutely cannot do without.
The Energizer, Detox Delight, Sunrise, Mediterranean, and Continental are breakfast selections that include a combination of fresh fruits with homemade yoghurt, wheat grass shot, the chef’s signature smoothie, fruit or green juice, cereal bowl with granola and nut milk, home made breads with jam, coconut but­ter, cashew cream cheese, open-face cheese or pate sandwiches, corn scramble with coconut bacon, and everything that is good and nutritious.
Green chef
organic vegetable garden
Good and nutritious means choosing the best possible ingredi­ent. “Good nutrition and health is based on whole food cuisine—which means everything in its natural state with as less process as possible,” says Chef Felix Schoener. “Instead of white rice, we use brown rice. Instead of white bread, whole wheat bread. Instead of apple juice, fresh apples. Instead of olive oil, olives. Instead of white sugar, we use muscovado, honey or natural sweeteners like sweet fruits, dates and the like. The idea is to look for the best choices. In the end, it is really about quality.”
Schoener is one of a few referred to as a “green chef,” a certi­fied Whole Food chef in Germany and Raw Living Food chef in the United States. The minutest details like the seasonings are not taken for granted in his natural living advocacy. The salt he uses, Himalayan crystal salt, is purchased from a less polluted area like the mountains of the Himalayas. “Every ingredient is carefully selected and scrutinized to see if it is helpful to the body. Since it is still a cuisine, we make sure it tastes good as well. It has differ­ent textures, and it satisfies the need to be creative. Instead of be­ing a traditional cuisine, we are more of an innovative cuisine.”
Grass gastronomy
The mere idea of grass for a meal inspiration seems unappetiz­ing, I know. That’s because we are used to fully cooked meals with all the seasonings within reach. When I prodded about his non-traditional way of preparing dishes that are raw or cooked at very low heat, Chef Schoener explains that in doing so, they are actually preserving the efficacy of vitamins, minerals and en­zymes in these plants that are essential to health.
“We are using different techniques in preparing raw living food so that it will still be close to its natural taste without tast­ing raw. We believe that the product in its natural state, like an apple or orange, has the highest nutrient value. When something is done with it (like baking or boiling), the value goes down. You just can’t improve on what nature has to offer. So in its natural state, it has the most vitamins and minerals, the most absorbable protein, and the most enzymes.”  Listening to him passionately speak of the benefits of going green, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this lifestyle towards natural and quality living could be sustainable to the general popu­lation considering the prices involved.
Chef Schoener believes that eating whole foods is the most sus­tainable diet there is because it’s the natural way, but we went away from this. He reminds us that our great, great grandparents used to grow their own malunggay and kangkong then eat them cooked with coconut milk. He concludes that we need to go back to our roots. According to the chef, it is not complicated to maintain such a diet. “In any country, you can eat whole foods – just go to the market and buy fresh fruits and vegetables and eat them fresh as much as possible.”
After a trip to this isolated inner sanctum of Lipa City, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I take my own health for granted. External everyday pressure and stress that leads to abuse of the body goes unnoticed and unchecked until someone points it out. For me, the message is clear. I should start scrutinizing what I put inside my body and slowly wean out of chicharon bulaklak, crispy pata, and lechon. This “wake up call” to consciously start making changes for a healthier life full of energy and vigor or face certain death sooner, both physically and spiritually, is something I will not take lightly. In the end, it’s really a choice, the choice to be alive.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Farm: Organic Cuisine here, and Spa Therapy there . . .


Okay, so this farm is not even remotely close to Old Mcdonald’s: No pigs, cows, dogs, or cats. The only sounds you will hear will be leaves rustling, birds chirping and water splashing against an overall silence. Peaceful and relaxing in its quiet, landscaped beauty of greenery, The Farm is the grand result of a perfect collaboration between God’s natural creation and man’s artistry.

The three-hour trip by bus was all worth the effort when after leaving the polluted city with stressful, endless traffic, I would feast my eyes on a scenery reminiscent of descriptions of Eden. The journey of anticipation began after the bus trip, when the shuttle picked me up from the station and drove me along a long, quiet, narrow road bordered by trees. For 15 minutes, the shuttle felt like it was taking me deep inside the forest. All there was to see were trees and more trees, no other vehicle passed our way. I felt like I was entering a mystical forest. My imagination started to go on active mode as I pictured fairies, gnomes, and centaurs about to stop me on the road and take me deeper into a magical forest.


The Healing Power of Nature
Finally I reached the resort safe and sound. No magical beings encountered. I was honored instead with a warm reception by a blonde, gentle-speaking fair lady of the farm who turned out to be the General Manager, Ms. Tania Hofer. I was offered a moist towel and a refreshment of buko juice upon alighting from the shuttle.

She briefed me on the philosophy behind The Farm’s existence and what to expect during my stay. We would start with a visit to the medicine man for a chat and a Live Blood Analysis--- one of the unique highlights of The Farm experience.

We proceeded to meet with Dr. Rounville Bardonado who explained the medical aspect of the programs offered at The Farm, and who also performed the Live Blood Analysis ritual.


A Drop of Blood Can Tell One’s History
Despite fearing the needle, we decided to brave the Live Blood Analysis for curiosity’s sake. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the needle prick was quick and painless. I felt silly for even hesitating over an itty bitty needle. The whole process just took all of five minutes. After extraction, the blood drop was magnified and presented in the computer screen. It was interesting to see my very own blood cells like animated round balls moving about. There were some irregular, star-shaped cells that I was told were due to environmental stress, diet and lack of Vitamin B.

An observation I have to point out was that hardly any one working there used perfume. It was later explained by the doctor that aside from restricting food intake to whole, natural vegetation even external applications like perfumes, all of which have chemicals, were avoided too. That’s when it hit me what they were advocating was a major lifestyle change. Can you imagine yourself not using any fragrance at all, even in your soaps and colognes, or avoiding make up altogether because of its chemical content? I’m sure it doesn’t just end there. It is no doubt an ideal practice, but a difficult one for perfume-lovers like me. Most women, and some men, I’m sure would not be able to give up their cosmetics totally. Aside from perfumes, the doctor explained that even pesticides are frowned upon for use on vegetable gardens.

Colon cleansing
Until the good doctor discussed about the colon, I wasn’t aware it was even there, much less, given it any thought or importance. So it was newsflash to me when he explained its significance in the whole inner cleansing process. It takes 4 to 6 hours of digestion before food is passed on to the small intestines, where nutrients are absorbed, then it moves to the colons to be eliminated. The colon, he points out, is more than just a major waste area. It is also where “prana” is absorbed. Prana, a terminology from Aryuveda is also the “chi” in Chinese and the life force or negative ions in western terminology. Every living thing has energy or an aura, including the plants we eat. Are you still with me?

“The increasing incidence of colon cancer is linked to our diet and constipation. The colon suffers the most from accumulated toxins.” Dr. Bardonado also informs us that “We start to decay from inside particularly in the colon area. So if our diet has a lot of toxins and bacteria then we are absorbing poison. We can feel it in the form of headaches, dizziness, or low energy level. To regain our health, we need to clean the colon area first. The body is constantly exposed to toxins everyday through food, air, water, and other chemicals. We accumulate toxins faster than we eliminate them. Detox means clearing of the toxins from our body. This can be accomplished in twenty one days instead of only 7 days of treatment.” He recommends that we detox on a regular basis to maintain good health.


Purely Vegan Meals
I got a taste of how a vegetarian’s life is like. No animal protein, no dairy, no eggs as only natural, unadulterated dishes were served, raw or warm at Alive. The Farm’s only restaurant uses vegetables and herbs grown organically in its backyard garden and served dehydrated instead of being cooked so as not to destroy the nutritional properties and enzymes of the foods. The whole health and nutrition philosophy of The Farm lifestyle was inspired by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, who said: “Let food by thy medicine and let medicine by thy food.”


Gardens, Lakes, Pools, Spa, and a 300 year-old Mango Tree
The stroll around the 9 hectare developed area of the Farm was refreshing and calming as we passed its beautifully landscaped grounds and water features. Our first stop was in a romantic garden that had a 300-year old Mango tree providing shade. We were told this venue had witnessed many wedding receptions already with its breezy location and dreamy nightlights. We passed a large pond with a fountain at the center where three white ducks were about to take a swim, oblivious to anybody walking by.

After walking by several meditation areas, we stopped at the Master Villa named Rempe, after the owner, where guests have a great view of Mt. Malarayat from the living room and outdoor sitting room. It also has its own heated pool.


The Jungle Gym, located across the Spa therapy area called Salus per Aqua, is surrounded by glass walls so guests have a pleasant view while working out. After walking through narrow foot paths that twisted and turned, we found ourselves in the waterfall pool. Guests can request to have this pool heated if they wanted to. A few more twist and turns, then we were in the secluded library that offers a lounge chair and a bench fronting a mini-lake for peaceful reading.


Viewing the Sulu Terrace Suites, which is modeled after the Ifugao huts, followed. This quaint two-level structure with a sitting room and twin beds at the second floor, has an outdoor lounge and bathroom located in the lower level. The tour wrapped up with a visit to the main meditation area for yoga sessions, organic garden and finally, the south pool. All areas, I must say, were a visual treat, picture perfect with its landscaped setting.


“Glass-Sucking-Toxins” Therapy
The finale of my stay was a massage therapy at the Salus per Aqua. From the reception, I could see the infinity pool against a scenic backdrop of verdant mountains and blue skies. The clear, blue pool, surrounded by wooden deck floors and lounge chairs, was so inviting that I was getting impatient waiting for my scheduled massage. The cabanas on the side looked so cool and relaxing with its white covered mats and white curtains flowing with the wind, I wanted to just jump in and sleep.

At the Reception, they politely and confidently recommended the ideal therapy for my back pains. I was told to try the Ventosa Moxa which is the Philippine’s version of the Thai, Swedish, and Shiatsu massage. Several glasses are used to “suck out” the toxins from the body after being laced inside with alcohol then lit for a second to create a vacuum, which allows it to latch on the skin. The masseuse has to be quick and orderly to be able accomplish the simultaneous use of these glasses for several minutes of “sucking” massage. Initially, I was apprehensive about the heat from the freshly fired glasses against my skin so I was jerky when they stuck the glasses on me. After a few minutes into it, I started to feel relaxed while the glasses were being stuck and plucked out of my back without flinching. In the end, I started feeling light and my back pains reduced.


Holistic Wellness
Believing that physical, mental and emotional health are the cumulative result of our own action and lifestyle, The Farm philosophy is all about making use of Nature’s own remedies to guide its guests towards total health of body, mind, and soul. So how can we cure a sick spirit, which manifests in our being depressed or stressed out? Perhaps the solution is in yoga, meditation, or simply taking in visually the beauty of our natural environment. This is something that The Farm has a lot to offer.
In this Farm, even the few ducks that visit respect the peace and tranquility so you won’t hear a quack, there a quack, nor anywhere a quack quack. Eeya eeya Yo!

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