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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
Italian Style + Southern California Produce = the Peach Bellini at Locanda de Lago Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Lago peach bellini

It’s always nice to find a gem you didn’t know about in your own back yard. In my case, the back yard is Santa Monica and the gem is Locanda de Lago, which has been on the Third Street Promenade for 20 years. I have to admit I’ve walked by it a million times but didn’t realize until a recent visit just how much care and energy the restaurant spends in not only creating a true Northern Italian (specifically, the Lake Region) experience but also in crafting that experience using the best in local produce. It doesn’t hurt that their location is steps from the legendary Santa Monica Farmers Market, which means many of the farmers are able to walk their produce right into the kitchen.

The summer menu, which changes weekly depending on the fare at the farmers market, includes Borage Tortellini, Verdure Carta Fata (vegetables steamed in parchment paper), Summer Filetto (with eggplant caviar, sauteed zucchini and summer truffles) and a burrata salad highlighted by market tomatoes and a basil sorbet. Even better, the burrata is made locally and traditionally by an Italian family. (You may utter a quiet guttural “mmmmmmm” now.)

Also on the current menu are cocktails named after celebrities with summer homes at Lake Como (the De Niro, the Madonna and the Clooney, which features blood oranges) and, particularly appropriate because of the preponderance of peaches available right now, a White Peach Bellini, made using the original recipe from Harry’s Bar in Venice. If you’d like to make it at home, the recipe is quite simple: just muddle a quarter of a ripe white peach and then fill the rest of the champagne glass with prosecco. Like Lago, it’s the perfect combination of seasonal produce and Italian style.

 
Victoria Public Market at the Hudson Opens Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Victoria Public MarketThe new Victoria Public Market at the Hudson has opened in Victoria, British Columbia. Modeled on public markets such as the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the Atwater Market in Montreal, Victoria's public market is located in the historic Hudson building in downtown Victoria near the spot where a farmers' market ran from the late 1800s until around 1960. The new market will feature day tables for farmers and a commercial kitchen for cooking classes, urban agriculture workshops and special events.

Also included will be semi-permanent kiosks and permanent vendors that include local favorites Silk Road, Salt Spring Cheese and Wildfire Bakery. Tours of the market and a larger farmers' market will be available on Wednesdays. Regular hours are expected to be 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information on the new Victoria Public Market, visit victoriapublicmarket.com.

 
"Pool Side" at the Hotel Palomar's BLVD 16 Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Blvd 16As we near Labor Day weekend, it seems appropriate to post a recipe for a refreshing cocktail that showcases some of the late-summer produce -- in this case, lemons, cucumbers, grapes and mint. The "Pool Side" was created by Reuben Games, the resident bartender at BLVD 16 (right), the restaurant and lounge at the Hotel Palomar Los Angeles-Westwood. The restaurant was named after Los Angeles' famed Wilshire Blvd. (the location of the hotel, with the 16 representing the length of the street, which runs from the beach to downtown) and features a menu that's updated frequently based on what's in season by Executive Chef Richard Hodge, who suggests pairing the cocktail with their quinoa salad, which also includes cucumber, oven-roasted tomato, feta cheese, olives and mint pesto. Yum to both. Enjoy!

Pool Side
2 oz. Hendrick's Gin
2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 oz. Organic Blue Agave Light
3 ea. Red Grapes
3 ea. Mint Leaves
2 ea. Cucumber Wedges

Directions: Muddle cucumber, grapes and mint with agave. Combine all ingredients in shaker and shake. Strain into a high-ball glass with fresh ice. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.

 
New for Spring: The Grand Del Mar's Apricot Jul-Up Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

The Grand Del Mar Mint Jul-up CocktailIt's at about this point in the spring season that it feels appropriate to start thinking about creating a great spring cocktail using seasonal produce that we can break out at parties celebrating grads or dads or whatever else you'd like to celebrate. To that end, I bring you -- courtesy of The Grand Del Mar in Del Mar, California -- the Apricot Jul-up, using fresh mint, apricot-honey syrup and apricot-infused bourbon, in honor of another great spring celebration: the Kentucky Derby. Enjoy!

Apricot Jul-up

Ingredients
3 oz. apricot-infused Bulleit Bourbon
1 1/2 ounces apricot-honey syrup (recipe below)
8 leaves of fresh mint
Fresh mint for garnish

Method
Muddle mint in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with mint.

Apricot-honey syrup
1 cup dried apricot
2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir constantly for approximately three to five minutes. Before using or storing, strain out apricot pulp and let the syrup cool to room temperature.

 
A New Farm Grows at Travaasa Austin Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Travaasa Austin farmLast summer, Linda Hayes visited Travaasa Austin and wrote a piece for GardenstoTables on "Farm to Table at Travaasa Austin" that highlighted the farm-to-table offerings Chef Benjamin Baker was creating with produce from local Austin farms. I recently had the good fortune to visit Travaasa Austin myself and am happy to report that, while they are still sourcing from local Austin farms, the resort has also added its own 3.25-acre farm (left) to its offerings. Run by Farm Manager Kim Grabosky, the farm is incorporating both organic and permaculture practices into growing the vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers that will be used in the kitchen, in signature cocktails and in treatments at its Spa Travaasa.

Travaasa Austin eggsBecause Travaasa Austin wants to continue to support the local organic farm community, Kim said she is going to concentrate on growing vegetables, fruits and herbs that are harder to get locally and, to that end, has already been growing greens and herbs and tomato and pepper seedlings in a greenhouse operation through the winter months. Kim is also overseeing a variety of chickens who will be laying farm fresh eggs for the kitchen -- we were there when the first arrived (right) -- and is planning to bring a honey bee operation in next.

Travaasa Austin will soon be adding farm-related classes to its extensive schedule of "experiences" -- and is also using land near the farm for its equestrian offering, including trail rides and its well-regarded Equine Experience. For more information, visit http://travaasa.com/austin/

 
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