Bukidnon has always had a strong tradition of farming, thanks to the commitment of its hardworking people who make full use of its rich agricultural land, rolling terrain and nutrient-rich soil. The abundance of high value crops, access to urban necessities in the cities, plus culinary fares influenced by a mix of traditions among seven indigenous tribes have shaped its rich foodways. Its proximity to Cagayan de Oro, with its dynamic tourism and booming restaurant industry, has also enabled Bukidnon to begin to develop a more modern take on the ways that they eat and cook.
Kumaykay River Farm in Dahilayan is slowly coming into its own, with its growing reputation for organic produce and its farm-to-table and recreational scene. Surrounded by high mountain ranges as backdrop, green meadows replete with bamboos and fern everywhere, a river with crystal clear cold running water nearby, the place is simply idyllic and as country as one can get.
The first impression most first timers experience would be that of a childlike wonder with a sense of awe. Everything is perfect for relaxing and de-stressing and Kumaykay River Farm is a most welcome respite from the motion of our everyday lives. It is also a frequent getaway by stars and celebrities who would escape the city life to unwind and commune with nature.
Formerly Valley Fresh Farm, Kumaykay River Farm is a place reminiscent of a scenic vacation spot on a Country Living Magazine showcasing cozy furnishings and vintage articles like a classic spinet, an old transistor radio, votive candles, framed family photos, and evocative paintings.
Lately, the Information Services (IS) writeshop team comprising of Erika Z. Vizcarra, Karl Louise M. Salibio, Jayvee P. Masilang and Angelica Marie T. Umali along with fellow content developers of ATI-Region X Noemi Beth G. Macario and yours truly convened and collaborated for a week-long writing session. Rounding up the mix was popular Cagayan de Oro-based lifestyle columnist and CdOBlogger President Maia Fortich-Poblete as the group’s resident editor. What an awesome place to be! Although it was my second visit, I still get awe-inspired. Who wouldn’t be inspired and even toy with the idea of owning one in the country since the house itself is spectacular with its high ceilings, exposed beams, wide windows, a fireplace, a floor to ceiling bookshelves and even an inviting attic to boot!
Meanwhile, the said writeshop’s output is meant for print publishing which would constitute an upcoming coffee table book showcasing the lives of rebel-returnees after the ATI’s intervention via “From Arms to Farms” initiative. The upcoming coffee table book, which will be launched sometime in January next year, and in time for the Institute’s anniversary, will capture stories meant to inspire readers and share the transformative power of farming in attaining peace and development. The Information Services group with the able headship of Antonieta J. Arceo, has been producing and publishing success story books for quite some time now.
Although Kumaykay Farm owner Boy Javier was not around to join us, his son Chef Josef Martin Javier or "JJ" (pronounced Jay-Jay) treated us with a rustic fine dining using the freshest ingredients in their farm. Their farm-to-table approach stands out among the established tourism farm specially that the resident Chef cooks personally and intimately for its patrons promoting the use of its local produce.
In a nutshell, Kumaykay’s culinary meister Chef JJ have worked extensively for several years in the United States in Lauderdale, Brooklyn Heights, Florida and Texas for Asian restaurants like Thai Spice, Japanese and Filipino Resto and Japanese Gourmet Deli.
As a self-proclaimed foodie, one of the highlights of our stay was the mouth-watering seven course meal prepared and served with such verve by Chef JJ himself. And what a gastronomic treat it was! It would be a mortal crime for me not to capture in words the visual and sensory experience of it all:
Ceasar’s Salad with Dill (Chef JJ’s version) - Such glorious greens! If there was a top three or five that I personally liked of the seven gastronomic delights we were served with, one of which would be this introductory treat. I love how the way all the ingredients masticated in my mouth as I savored each chew mindfully. The result was a delightful mix of flavor profile---savory, sweet-spicy and earthy. The greens and the herbs and the egg along with the dried anchovies complemented each other and I have to point out that the dressing drizzled over was a killer one!
Tuna Tataki with Purslane – Perfectly seared on the outside but juicy and tender tuna on the inside, this is what this dish was all about; a bursting contradiction of wholesomely cooked and luscious raw. The browned spices and sesame seeds adding little crunch and subtle nutty taste completes this succulent treat.
Kinilaw (Ceviche) – A classic and a staple dish among restaurants and food joints, this version also got a Chef JJ treatment since this kinilaw is delicately sweet and tangy with just enough spice to fire our palate which was thrown in with mini cucumbers. The latter provided the much needed oomph for that crunch and vitality. Clearly, Chef JJ captured the purest expression of a fresh fish’s flavor.
Chocolate-dipped Sweet Potato with Dried Anchovies or “Champorado” – This one’s pretty neat and clever. When Chef JJ chimed in that our fourth serving was champorado, I got a bit confused since it was not the one I had in mind. Still, it got my taste buds working double time since the savory thinly-sliced (ala Pringles) and fried sweet potatoes, chocolate and dried anchovies were pure epicurean bliss. Once again, Chef JJ captured the essence of one of Filipino’s favorite breakfast combo---Champorado with tuyo. This one’s yum set in Caps Lock!
Shrimp Skewers aka Surf and Turf with Artillery Plant – This one’s your straight grilled shrimp on a stick but what makes it a palate pleaser was that the shrimps got that irresistible lightly charred smokiness brushed with a marinade I cannot quite decipher to ensure great flavor in every bite. The artillery plant added some texture and aromatic taste in this sensational shrimp skewers.
Minced Beef with Spicy Noodles, Cayenne Pepper, Sumac, and Paprika – Best eaten when it is raining and cold outside or if one is under the weather, I have to say that this would be one of my latest favorite comfort foods; and fat noodles are my thing right now! The well-minced beef mixed with spices like cayenne pepper and paprika got my taste buds straight to zing zing zing heaven! A light sprinkle of sumac powder added an edible color to this tasty treat of a bowl.
Seafood Adobo (Clam and Mussels) – Rounding up our seven course meal was this clam and mussels adobo combo. Admit it, who doesn’t like adobo, like the Chicken Adobo fame? Adobo gets my vote any time of the day. Adobo is simply adorbs. Only this time, it was dished out with other helpings our abundant splendid sea can offer.
Later, after we enjoyed our meal, we were serenaded with timeless songs such as “My Favorite Things” and "Dream a Little Dream of Me" by Chef JJ who’s got some mad piano skills via his vintage spinet.
Will we come back for more relaxing, soul-stirring and inspiring moments here? ABSOLUTELY!