Gardens to Tables

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The Tomatomania folks will be offering pop-ups through the end of April throughout Southern California. They will not only (obviously) have a wide variety of tomato seedlings but also peppers and other veggies. For more information, click here.

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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
The Jolly Oyster Brings Aquaculture-Farm-to-Table to Ventura's San Buenaventura State Beach Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Jolly OysterWhen Mark Reynolds wanted to go into the business of farming healthy, local, sustainable seafood, he quickly learned that the only real sustainable seafood option was to raise filter-feeding molluscs. So he started with oysters and clams. In addition to being sustainable, oysters are packed with vitamins and minerals and low in calories -- only about 10 calories apiece, according to Reynolds, who said that was one less than licking a stamp (and a whole lot tastier).

Reynolds and business partner Mark Venus started their venture down in Baja California in 1997 and seeded their first farm in 1999. They now have two farms producing Kumamoto and Pacific oysters and Manila clams. Many of their oysters and clams go directly to restaurants but consumers who want to buy directly from the source can now visit The Jolly Oyster at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura and either buy the molluscs to take home or just shuck them right there at the park -- which offers picnic benches and outdoor barbecues for a true seaside feast.

If you're interested in doing the latter, you'll need a shucking knife for the oysters (and some charcoal and a skillet, if you're going to be grilling the clams). You'll also need some sauce. Reynolds was kind enough to share his recipes for a mignonette sauce and a Thai chili sauce, both of which go great with the oysters. Even better, the ingredients include many of the things growing in our gardens. Enjoy!

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Finding Farm-to-Table on Molokai Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Molokai FarmersAt first glance, the Hawaiian island of Molokai may not appear to have all that much to offer the farm-to-table foodie. There are only a smattering of restaurants in the main town of Kaunakakai, and two of the best feature burgers and pizza. But, like a lot of things on Molokai, dig a little deeper and you'll find an abundance of fresh local (and, yes, organic) products. For instance, that burger spot, Molokai Burger, has a sign outside stating its meat is sourced from local ranches (and the burger was yummy) and the vegetables topping the pizza at the Molokai Pizza Cafe were incredibly fresh.

The truth is the island has always been an agricultural powerhouse, with its earliest inhabitants farming taro, sweet potatoes and fish ponds more than a century ago. Heck, even the high school mascot is a farmer (above) -- and a read of the local newspaper and signs alongside the road highlights the importance of agriculture (and, as with the other Hawaiian islands, the tussle between proponents of sustainable farming and the presence of Monsanto) to the community. With most accommodations on the island coming with kitchens or kitchenettes, Molokai offers a great chance to take advantage of truly local Hawaiian offerings.

Here are some gems we discovered on a recent trip:

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A Deer Valley Twist on the Classic Bloody Mary Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Bloody Mary barIt's hard to think of a cocktail that lends itself more to the gardens-to-tables movement than the classic tomato-and-vodka Bloody Mary. Invented in 1934 at the St. Regis New York by bartender Fernand Petiot, contemporary Bloody Mary bars -- such as the one (left) at last September's Hawaii Food & Wine Festival -- have been known to include a garden's worth of vegetables, fruits and herbs.

St. Regis hotels around the world still serve the classic cocktail, but each has their own twist. At the St. Regis Deer Valley, this includes Park City's High West Vodka (an oat-based vodka); a wasabi, celery and apple espuma; a glass lined with black lava salt; and a pipette of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce so guests can choose just how much kick they want. The 7452 (the resort's altitude) Bloody Mary is quite popular, selling about 2,500 a month.

For those who'd like to know just what goes into the 7452 Bloody Mary, the St. Regis Deer Valley was kind enough to share the recipe. Enjoy!

St. Regis Bloody MaryThe 7452 Bloody Mary
(four 4 oz. glasses, one of which is pictured right)

14 oz. can tomato juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cornichon juice
2 tsp. horseradish
1 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 tsp celery salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Rub a lime around the rim of each glass and dip in black Hawaiian salt. Combine all ingredients. Fill glass 3/4 full.
For the espuma: Combine celery juice, parsley, wasabi powder and some green apple. Blend and strain, and add as foam on top.

 
Preserving Farm-Fresh Flavor at Sacramento's Grange Restaurant Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Grange RestaurantIf your garden is like mine, you're starting to an abundance of tomatoes from your garden (or local farmers market) so I thought I'd bring back this recipe that Chef Michael Tuohy shared with us in 2009 when he was the executive chef at the Grange Restaurant & Bar in Sacramento. The highly regarded Grange is still in Sacramento, with Chef Oliver Ridgeway now in charge, while Chef Tuohy has a new assignment as the executive chef and general manager for the new arena being built in downtown Sacramento. What hasn't changed is the focus on farm-fresh ingredients, including (yes) summer tomatoes. Enjoy!

Surrounded by the fertile Central Valley of California and with a weekly farmers market just outside its front door, the Grange Restaurant & Bar in Sacramento prides itself on using the freshest seasonal produce. Local farms such as Capay Organics and Del Rio Farm are even credited on the menu, which changes daily based on what’s in season. Even the wine list is focused on the local, featuring small production, boutique wineries from approved viticulture areas in California.

As this is the season of the tomato, we asked Chef Michael Tuohy for some tips on how to get the most out of those lovely heirlooms:

“In a perfect world, tomatoes would be ripened by the sun and enjoyed directly off the vine,” said Chef Tuohy. “In order to preserve farm-fresh flavor, I suggest storing heirloom tomatoes on their shoulders and out in the open air. Storing tomatoes refrigerated cuts flavor and brings out acidity.”

But, in the meantime, enjoy his Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho.

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Serves 6-8 persons

Ingredients
3 Heirloom Tomatoes, rough chopped
2 Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T pimenton dulce (sweet smoked Spanish paprika)
1 T pimenton piquante (spicy smoked Spanish paprika)
1 T toasted ground cumin
1 C torn sour dough bread
1 C almonds, rough chopped (marcona preferred)
2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C sherry vinegar
salt to taste

Method:
***note: For best results, I like to double puree using an immersion blender first,
then transfer to a high powered blender like a Vita Prep for a smooth, light airy texture.
If you blend just once using a standard blender or food processor, you will have a more
coarse texture, which can be nice and just as satisfying.

1. Place all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a container large enough to hold while blending with an immersion blender. Or, place into a standard blender container.
2. Begin blending and slowly adding the olive oil to create an emulsion.
3. After all ingredients are incorporated, taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Chill very well before serving.

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped almonds and a bit of coarse sea salt like Fleur de sel, or maldon.

 
Accessing Albuquerque Agriculture Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Indian Pueblo farmThere are a number of things that Albuquerque has been well known for over the years, including (in very rough chronological order) a vibrant Native American culture, Route 66 and "Breaking Bad." One thing that hasn't changed is the area's rich agricultural heritage, from the farms of the early Pueblo Indians, which incorporate the "three sisters" (beans, corn and squash), to the famous chiles grown throughout the state and incorporated in New Mexican cuisine at local institutions such as El Pinto Restaurant & Salsa Company (which I wrote about here in this story on "Traditional Christmas Tamales from El Pinto" in 2011 -- and which now has its own small organic farm in the back). Here are a few other fun gardens-to-tables style finds I discovered on a recent visit:

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: The center features a Native Fusion Culinary Tour that includes a visit to the adjacent garden highlighting Indian Pueblo gardening techniques such as the Zuni Waffle Garden (above), a tour through the museum and a feast in the Pueblo Harvest Cafe.

Abuquerque AlpacasAlbuquerque Alpacas: This alpaca farm, located not far from El Pinto Restaurant, is open to the public for ranch tours and classes. They don't have set hours so call or e-mail to set up an appointment beforehand. We were lucky enough on our recent tour to arrive just three hours after a new cria (baby alpaca) was born. Not sure there's anything cuter than this little guy (right).

Stables at Tamaya: Located at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa on the Santa Ana Pueblo outside of Albuquerque, the Stables at Tamaya offer trail rides, a summer rodeo every Friday night and also serve as the home for the Horse Rehab program, which works to save abandoned and neglected horses in the region. It should be noted the hotel also offers a locally inspired and sourced restaurant, the Corn Maiden, which I wrote about here in this article on "A Focus on New Mexico's Best at the Corn Maiden" in 2012.

Los PoblanosLos Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm: Just outside the city proper in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Los Poblanos is a working lavender farm that also offers a 20-room inn (full gourmet breakfast included), La Merienda Restaurant (which has its own kitchen garden and beehive), a farm store and a number of workshops open to the public. We attended a lavender distillation workshop with Farmer Kyle (pictured) that included lessons on how to grow and harvest lavender and time spent watching the distillation process itself. And, yes, that is as mellow-inducing an experience as it sounds.

 
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