A farm for all seasons.
2018. This summer was spent scooting along the country roads of Ibiza passing by trees overflowing with figs, carob, and almonds. Occasionally pulling off for a snack, I'd savor the abundance and free spirit of the tranquil place. Although often known as the party mecca, Ibiza has many sides to it that are kept a secret only for those who care to explore deeper. What I experienced was a Mediterranean paradise where farm-fresh food meets international DJs and beautiful swimming beaches where you can swim out with the fish as far as the lungs will take you.
The magic aside, when first arriving on the island from living in Bali, I quickly noticed the excessive use of plastic all over the island. It is often disheartening to see how the developed world has regressed through modern conveniences. Even the organic produce at the supermarket was covered in plastic. Instinctively, I began digging into the plastic-free movement on the island, and at the heart of it, of course, are...the farmers and interesting farm-to-table experiences.
During a particularly rainy week in September, I was invited to the Santa Eularia adjacent Terra Masia to check out their 56-hectare farm, which offered fresh farm boxes complete with vegetables, fruits, eggs, and herbs and also these popular farm dinners I had heard about. I drove the distance from our shared house near Punta Galera to the farm by passing through the Ibizenco countryside, a peaceful and meditative 45-minute scooter ride to arrive at this oasis. Harmoniously laid out in a fairy-tale kind of farm, each varietal was properly labeled and cleanly maintained so you could see where and how the produce grew, allowing for an accessible experience especially to those who are seeing some of these plants for the first time. And it is truly humbling to see a vegetable growing, to feel the weight and strength of it connected to its roots, which in turn builds an appreciation for the land and the people who look after it. With whole sections dedicated to edible flowers and aromatic herbs too, I was in heaven.
“The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world.”
- MICHAEL POLLAN
I met with Organic Agriculture expert, Marina Morán Jou, who has taken over the regeneration of this land. She and her team supply the community and various restaurants with their produce and farm boxes, which are now being offered with delivery service. In its second year of production this summer, they began to offer bi-monthly farm dinners where the people dine right in the middle of the citrus grove near the open fire grill, pop-up bar, and Moroccan themed decor. From sold-out 100 to 170 covers each night over the course of the summer, Terra Masia definitely found their niche by offering a unique experience for people coming from all over the world seeking old-school Ibiza vibes. Marina and Chef Guido Widokowski craft the menus based on what's ready and abundant. The menu on the Friday I attended included shared plates such as the Grilled Veggie Moussaka, Ginger and Coriander Marinated Fish on the BBQ, Almond Pesto Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and the Terra Masia Escalibada with Smoked Aubergine Puree, Garlic, Tahini and Mint.
"The ingredients tell me what the menu is going to be. Instead of importing all of what we need to create a dish you could find in some other place, we think of all the ways to let the plants speak for themselves."
About 15 minutes from Punta Galera and tucked away with only the smallest designation of signs, live the farm and farmhouse known as La Granja. I discovered this place by attending a Friday night ritual where the otherwise private house opens its doors to a guest list of locals who want to enjoy inspired music sets, cocktails, and smaller farm-fresh plates. After spending one night with them, I immediately reached out to learn more about what was happening on the property, which services a 9 guestroom farmhouse and two-bedroom guesthouse as an intimate Design Hotel concept space. The Wabi-Sabi aesthetics and the parred back simplicity, sustainable living workshops, yoga classes, and isolated living experience offer something truly unique for those who long for inspiration in a nurturing natural setting with intentional farm food.
What I found in Ibiza was incredibly new to me. People were coming together from all different parts of the world to test out new ideas and fresh flavors through creating private dining experiences deep in the campo. Finding La Granja was like plugging into the pulse of the scene, attracting locals and clients who can come together to enjoy something that feels like the best kept of the secrets.
Arriving at La Granja around lunchtime, I was warmly greeted and offered tea in the common dining area of the farmhouse. A few people lounged by the pool with noses buried in books, one guest was coming from yoga and others taking a coffee. The grounds were quiet yet zen, immediately shifting my energy. I could tell creating a sense of community and togetherness is important here. Guests are able to connect with the land in many ways including communal farming and workshops on topics such as biodynamic agriculture, slow food cooking, and beekeeping. In fact, the implementation of the bee hotels on the farm has generated over 50,000 bees and has increased food production by 15% I was told. Their intention is to provide an experience where guests learn what is it to care about the land.
Within minutes of speaking with Chef José, I could tell he considers his food to be like art. Growing up in Patagonia, he primarily learned to cook through his mother, who opened up a small rotisserie out of their home to serve their immediate neighbors in a move away from the busy restaurant life. Seeking experience outside of his hometown, at 18 years old, he headed out to work in restaurants in Buenos Aires, then off to Brazil, Italy, France, Barcelona, and eventually to Ibiza. Through these various experiences, he realized that there were certain cooking styles that relied heavily on importing ingredients or techniques so specialized that often produced a lot of waste. Taking inspiration from the slower pace of life and the availability of seasonal Mediterranean produce in his own home garden, he began to favor simple farm-fresh cooking where waste was either minimal or could be composted.
When asking about the style of his food, Chef José commented that there wasn't any one particular style. With community dining tables too, the guests are treated like a family where Chef José and his team curate a changing seasonal menu focused on the vegetables of the farm and accommodating any dietary requests and restrictions. He enjoys operating a mostly vegan and gluten-free kitchen with the exception of locally sourced farm-raised animal proteins, eggs, and fish. Oftentimes the way they craft a new dish is by finding the ingredients in the farm with Farmer Andy Szymanowicz, who is the mastermind behind the farm itself, and then discussing amongst the kitchen staff all the ways in which a particular vegetable could be prepared. Using as much as they can from the farm, he enjoys receiving requests and sees each one as a challenge to be creative in an effort to make people feel special and more connected to the experience of the farm and of Ibiza. Having this kind of creative freedom on a small-scale intimate basis is important to him. The result is a home away from home, a place to recharge your batteries and gather to feast.