What the Heck Does Farm-to-Table Even Mean?

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Manila farm-to-table restaurants

“Farm-to-whuuuut?!”

The word “farm-to-table” may sound new to some of us, but the idea behind it has actually been around for 40+ years. In the US, it all started in 1971 when Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse, what some would call the first-ever farm-to-table restaurant. In Europe, it started in the 80s and was called something else: the “Slow Food Movement.” Both were created to fight against the then-rising fast food industry.

Just for kicks, we checked out Google Trends to see just how many people have been searching for the term “farm to table” on the interwebz.

Surprisingly, it looks like people didn’t really start looking the term up until 2006. Also important to note is how interest in this topic has steadily been increasing.

So before we start seeing McDonald’s calling itself a farm-to-table fast food joint, we figured now would be a good time to try and answer some of our burning questions about this seemingly trendy restaurant industry term.

What does it mean when a restaurant is labeled “farm-to-table?”

As the name implies, a farm-to-table restaurant would get most of its ingredients directly from a farm they’ve built a relationship with. Its meaning is pretty literal: what you’re eating on their table pretty much comes directly from a farm.

This, as opposed to a non-farm-to-table restaurant that would get its ingredients from a supermarket or the closest meat shop that’s maybe two or three connections away from the actual farm that raised or harvested the produce.

If there are farm-to-table restaurants, there are also farm-supplier-supplier-market-table restaurants. Ha.

If I eat at a farm-to-table restaurant, am I eating healthier?

When you eat fruits, vegetables, or even meat that’s sourced locally, that means you’re getting them fresh and that they didn’t have to sit and travel (sometimes frozen) for hours. For fruits and vegetables, that also means they were able to fully absorb nutrients from their surroundings. That’s because they were picked at the right time and not while still unripe just so they can make it through their journey.

Eating at a farm-to-table restaurant usually means you’re eating healthier mainly because the ingredients used in creating their dishes are fresh and not canned nor processed.

Is farm-to-table food always organic?

This is a tricky one.

Just because a restaurant is labeled farm-to-table, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what they serve is organic. Sure, a restaurant may be sourcing their ingredients locally but it doesn’t automatically mean that the farm they’ve partnered with doesn’t use synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or that their crops aren’t genetically modified.

Restaurants that do serve organic food normally say so.

It is also possible for restaurants to serve all-organic food but not call themselves farm-to-table. In this case, they could be getting their meat, fruits and vegetables from an organic farm but are doing so via a “middleman.”

What are some of Manila’s farm-to-table restaurants?

Earth Kitchen, White Plains, Quezon City

Grass-fed beef and organic chicken from Batangas. Organic fruits and vegetables from Tarlac and Benguet. Ice cream, tortilla and even pasta made from scratch. With access to over 100 of Got Heart Foundation’s partner communities all over the Philippines, Earth Kitchen stays true to its tagline: “Healthy. Local. Sustainable.”

Must-try dishes according to looloo reviewers: Beef Kebab, Watermelon and Rocket Salad, Beef Bulgogi Soft Taco.

Green Pastures, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong

Now with 130 total reviews and 200+ place recommendations on the app (not to mention the long lines when you go there), Green Pastures has got to be the most popular farm-to-table restaurant on looloo.

With olive oil as their only imported ingredient, you’ll find dishes creatively crafted out of local produce. From free range duck eggs wrapped in homemade longganisa to sustainably caught Roxas City mussels, there’s always something unique, local and organic to try at Green Pastures.

Must-try dishes according to looloo reviewers: Farmhouse Salad, Ricotta, Duck You.

Grace Park, One Rockwell, Makati

Quiz question! If a restaurant in Manila serves Chianina steak, Nodini and Burrata cheese from Italy, can it still be considered a farm-to-table restaurant?

Some would argue that this goes against one of the core features of farm-to-table: sustainability. Others though, believe that as long as it comes directly from a local farm somewhere (in this case, somewhere in Italy), then technically it still is farm-to-table.

But technicalities aside, I was happy to learn from Chef Gerald Montelibano of Grace Park that even though they may have a few items that sometimes come in from Italy, about 90-98% of what you’ll find in their menu still come from local farmers all over the Philippines. We hear owner Margarita Fores even personally visits these farms to check their produce!

That makes Grace Park truly farm-to-table.

Must-try dishes according to looloo reviewers: Muscovado Beef Belly, 3-Page Salad, Eton Mess (for dessert).

The Farm Restaurant, Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa

The Farm Restaurant Alabang

Photo taken from Tom F’s looloo review

From burger patties to beef tapa to even steaks, health conscious meatlovers will be happy to know that at The Farm Restaurant, they’re all organic! With their beef coming straight from the first certified organic cattle farm in the Philippines (The Farm Organics in Masbate), diners are guaranteed their cattle are grass-fed, given no antibiotics and are free to graze around their 700—hectare farm.

Must-try dishes according to looloo reviewers: Bacon Cheeseburger, Double Cheeseburger, Kesong Puti Burger.

Did we miss any other farm-to-table restaurants in Manila? Or maybe you know some that are located in other parts of the Philippines? Let us know in the comments section!

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About Author

Peanut Dela Cruz

A picky eater living vicariously through other people’s looloo reviews, she is either thinking of food or eating. Her hobbies include finding new places to eat and occasionally responding to spam text messages.

6 Comments

  1. meds dormiens on

    Thanks a lot,Toni, for sharing your travel knowledge and experiences! My spirit to travel has been ignited by your insights. I’ll be visiting the 5 provinces soon.

  2. elephant_walk on

    in bacolod we have fresh start organics at the robinson’s city walk. except for some e.g. ice cream (?) the ingredients of the food that they serve are locally sourced. from its own farms as well as from farmers groups around bacolod.