(AUTHOR’S NOTE: It is with a heavy heart that I announce this: Enchanted Farm Cafe has closed its doors as of March 8, 2015 – after four years of operations. Timestamp: 20 March 2015, 09:23 pm.)
The first thing that comes to my mind whenever Gawad Kalinga is mentioned would be their 1MB / Isang Milyong Bayani (One Million Heroes) project. This involves volunteers helping out in the various Gawad Kalinga communities around the nation by building homes and doing other forms of volunteer work to benefit impoverished people. But that was some years ago. Gawad Kalinga, under the leadership of Tony Meloto, has started to delve into social enterprises offering products that allow the poor to have a sustainable livelihood. Some examples of these are Rags2Riches (established by Reese Fernandez, this company makes handbags using local materials), Human Heart Nature (a line of environmentally friendly beauty products established by Anna Meloto-Wilk, Tony’s daughter) and the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm.
Speaking of the latter, the Enchanted Farm Cafe in Quezon City showcases products from these social enterprises, mostly coming from the GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan. I first heard of the cafe during an episode of etc HQ when it was featured there. Seeing that it was connected to Gawad Kalinga and offered delicious and healthy food, I tried it out for myself. The cafe is conveniently located along Commonwealth Avenue, at the second floor of the Human Heart Nature building. It is accessible by public transportation; just tell the driver to drop you off along Feria Road. As soon as I went up the steel steps, I am welcomed by farmhouse hues of brown and green – a relaxing respite from the steel and gray of Commonwealth Avenue. It was much like a hole-in-the-wall cafe, but with a more Filipino twist. I sat near a spot that was overlooking the road below. This is one of those places that you would want to stay at and do some creative work away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
It was already 1 in the afternoon and I had not eaten lunch yet, so I checked out their offerings. A wide selection of products was displayed on their shelves. There were jars of peanut butter and vinaigrette, bottles of duhat wine and Bayani Brew Iced Tea, and bars of Theo and Philo Artisan Chocolates. Most of these products are sourced at the GK Enchanted Farm. Despite the prices, this fact is certain: with every purchase, you help provide a sustainable livelihood for GK beneficiaries. Starting off the meal was a glass of Bayani Brew Classic (P45), made from all-natural ingredients and creatively served in a mayonnaise jar. I loved how they used the mayonnaise jars as drink containers – they looked cool and held more iced tea compared to a regular glass. Although I have already tried Bayani Brew before in Chicken Charlie’s Eastwood branch, it was only this time that I appreciated the taste. The pandan leaves go perfectly well with the tanglad (lemongrass), creating a leafy and fragrant drink with citrus notes much like calamansi. In all honesty, I believe Bayani Brew is better than the sugar-laden iced tea we commonly know of. Its sweetness is just right and healthy as muscovado sugar is used for it. There’s a certain cutting aftertaste in the throat after you drink Bayani Brew (gumuguhit sa lalamunin in Filipino), but it doesn’t last long; maybe it’s the lemongrass.
For my main lunch meal, I ordered their Chicken Barbecue (P170) made from free-range chickens grown without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, and other artificial stuff. It consisted of stir-fried chicken breast fillets marinated in barbecue sauce and served with brown rice, topped with half a salted duck egg (from free-range ducks likewise, mind you) courtesy of The Golden Duck which is another GK Social enterprise, a slice of cucumber, and a slice of tomato. It was served with a salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber drizzled with honey and calamansi vinaigrette (which was also for sale), a light and healthy accompaniment to the dish. The chicken was sliced into manageable cubes, and the breast part’s naturally tender texture helped convey the sweet and spicy taste. The brown rice was rather heavy, with its small serving just enough for me. Truly, brown rice is perfect for weight watchers as it makes you fuller with just a small portion. (ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: NO EXTRA RICE THIS TIME!) Establishments serving brown rice are hard to find, and I’m glad that Enchanted Farm Cafe is one of them. The duck egg isn’t overwhelmingly salty as compared to others, and it actually helps balance out the sweet-spicy taste of the chicken barbecue. All in all, the chicken barbecue is a good dish that I can personally recommend to people who want to dine at Enchanted Farm Cafe in the future.
Special mention for this review would be the dessert. I ordered their Sabanoffee Pie (P120) to cap off my meal. This is a socially relevant and uniquely Filipino take on the banoffee pie by Starbucks. The Sabanoffee Pie is made by TinTan’s Pastries, another social enterprise that focuses on desserts using locally sourced ingredients. It was served in a larger container as compared to that of Starbucks, and the “crust” made from Graham crackers is crumbled unlike the regular one which is compacted at the bottom. In addition, I actually tasted coffee in the crumbled Graham crust. The dessert used saba bananas (thus the name) that are locally sourced, making it heavier – a good choice as the bananas didn’t become soggy. The assembly of the crust, bananas, cream, and chocolate syrup may look simple, but the taste can actually match its more expensive counterpart. Just think of the fact that with an order of this dessert, you actually help people’s livelihoods and support the local economy (vis-à-vis Starbucks, which is commonly seen as a symbol of capitalism). To keep it short, this Sabanoffee Pie by TinTan’s Pastries is the best dessert to seal the deal!
This trip to the Enchanted Farm Cafe was an enchanting one indeed. Not only did I have a good meal with a nice view of Commonwealth Avenue outside, I also bumped into a college batchmate of mine who happened to be a graphic designer there (albeit short). But most of all, I felt glad to know that the satisfying lunch I had was able to uplift other people’s lives through the simple act of eating and patronizing the fruits of their labor. I am now convinced that sustainable livelihood is a good way to pull this nation out of the misery that it’s in. Better to help people help themselves than turn them into perennial welfare dependents. As they say: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
Check out their Facebook here and stay connected. Until the next review, bon appetit.