February 27, 2015 | Posted in:Culinary Cues

Bessan Chila

Bessan Chila, made with chickpea flour
Photo credit: Marian Rivman


By Marian Rivman

For several months, I wanted to treat myself to a spa vacation.

After more than a decade of caregiving for my mother, I needed to reset my mind, body, and spirit to prepare myself for the next chapter of my life. When I recently made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a trip to the Philippines–the country where I did my Peace Corps service decades ago–I had the brilliant idea of going to a spa while I was there.

After an extensive Google search, I decided that The Farm at San Benito, located just a 90-minute drive from Manila, was the place for me. It was physically beautiful, offered an unbelievably extensive choice of spa and wellness treatments, and there were daily workout activities that included yoga, water aerobics, cross training, and power walks. It sounded like my idea of heaven. My only trepidation was that The Farm was totally vegan, and 85 percent of the food on the menu at their Alive restaurant was served raw.

It’s not that I’m a raging carnivore, but my normal diet includes chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy in addition to fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. Going totally vegan for a week was going to be a challenge. I was envisioning food choices that would be bland and boring.

After my first day at The Farm, I realized my concern was totally unfounded. Actually, one of the high points of my stay at The Farm was the food, which was consistently healthy, nutritious, and absolutely delicious. Each dish was pleasing to both the palate and the eye.

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From clockwise, top right:

From clockwise, top right: mixed organic salad, cassava flour pancakes with coconut sugar syrup, stuffed young coconut with hoisin sauce, fruit salad with homemade coconut milk yogurt, scrambled tofu and roasted potatoes, green smoothie
All photos courtesy of Marian Rivman

Lucrecia Buking, the head chef who has been with The Farm since it opened, is a culinary queen. With help from visiting chefs and her talented kitchen staff, she has created world-class recipes. My favorites included: Bessan Chila (made with chickpea flour) with Cilantro and Tamarind Chutney; Mixed Organic Salad with Tomato, Mango, Cucumber, and Nut Cheese; Vermicelli with stir Fried Vegetables; and Rice Flour Pancakes with Coconut Sugar Syrup. The homemade granola served at breakfast each morning is swoon-worthy. It’s a mixture of hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, shredded green apples, desiccated coconut, bananas, coconut sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt that is put in a dehydrator overnight.

The farm-to-table organic menu at the spa is not a trend; it’s a way of life. There’s an extensive garden right next to the restaurant where all the greens for salads and herbs for dressings, teas, and sauces are grown. There’s an organic coconut plantation and a small processing plant on the property. There’s also a coffee plantation and fruit groves. In addition, The Farm’s horticulturist is working with local farmers to teach them how to grow organic vegetables, which the spa then buys.

The kitchen is spotlessly clean and well-equipped. I took two cooking classes while I was there and learned how they work their magic. There is a high-speed blender that’s used for salad dressings, sauces, and delectable smoothies. There is a juicer that presses a seemingly endless variety of creative combinations of drinks for those guests who are on a carefully monitored detox program. Most importantly, absolutely nothing leaves the kitchen unless it has been carefully plated. Food and beverages arrive at the table looking like works of art.

Going vegan at The Farm was not a challenge at all. It was a joy.

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Marian Rivman is a New York-based public relations and communications consultant. Her clients have included UN agencies, Fortune 500 companies, international nonprofits, bold-faced names, and the recreational scuba diving industry. She is known for her unbounded energy, directness, and skill at translating complex issues into comprehensible messages for an array of audiences. Marian is particularly interested in the power of nonverbal communication. In addition to her independent consulting work, Marian is affiliated with New Solutions.

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Deborah J. Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell Media Associates – Photo Credit: Debbie Mitchell Graphic – Design: Nay Ayache

Emmy-nominated network television producer Deborah Mitchell is a veteran of ABC and CBS News, a member of the Producers Guild of America, and a board member of the James Beard Broadcast and Media Awards Committee. Through Deborah Mitchell Media Associates, she will create your online personality with a customized website, book you on the right television show, manage your social media profiles, and connect you with the best and brightest digital influencers. Deborah is a weekly contributor for Entrepreneur.com and author of So You Want To Be On TV. You can follow Deborah @SocialTVDeb and/or email SocialTVDeb@gmail.com, or email Nay Ayache on naydmma@gmail.com.  


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