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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
Ventura Loves Lemons (A Lot!) Print E-mail
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Written by Abbie Mood   
Sunday, 22 May 2011 07:50

Limoncello LemonsWith its Mediterranean climate, it’s no surprise that the area in and around Ventura, California, makes it easy to grow a variety of fruits. One of the more popular ones is the lemon. Whether it’s the local Ventura Limoncello in a Lemon Drop  at the Watermark or Limoneira lemons used in one of the lemon cake desserts at the Sidecar, lemons can be found just about everywhere. On a recent trip to Ventura, sponsored by the Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau, I toured Ventura Limoncello and Limoneira, two local companies that are deep into the lemon business.

As soon as you walk into the offices of Ventura Limoncello, you are met with the fresh smell of lemons. James Carling and his wife, Manuela, run the entire operation with just the help of Manuela’s parents and (occasionally) their son. They scrub and peel the locally sourced lemons by hand, then soak them in 190-proof grain alcohol (pictured above), filter the liquid in a stainless steel tank, blend with a sugar and water mixture, then measure out by hand. The liquid is then sent for analysis to be sure they maintain the alcohol content stated on the label. The leftover lemon fruit is sent back to the grower to use as mulch for the nearby blueberry fields. Ventura Limoncello offers the Limoncello Originale, Limoncello Crema, and seasonally, a delicious Blood Orange flavor.

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Two Continents, Two Markets, One City: Istanbul Print E-mail
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Written by Michael Costa   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 07:49

Istanbul Market

There’s only one place in the world where you can explore markets on two continents in a single afternoon: Istanbul, Turkey. It’s the only city to call both Europe and Asia home—the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara separate the metropolis, with Europe on the left, and Asia to the right. There are approximately 12 million people living in Istanbul and, with a population that large, markets abound in nearly every neighborhood—lucky locals have access to a mind-boggling variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, spices, and more. Turkish tomatoes and potatoes in particular are considered among the finest in the world.
I recently visited Istanbul, and spent a day with local cook and guide Selin Rozanes (pictured with me below) whose company Turkish Flavours specializes in all things culinary for visitors, from cooking classes to market tours. We explored the 350-year-old Spice Market (A.K.A. Spice Bazaar, or Egyptian Bazaar) in Eminönü on the European side, then took a short ferry ride to the Asian side, where we pored over the outdoor market in Kadıköy.

Costa and Rozanes

Because Rozanes is a resident, she knows many of the shopkeepers, so I had a chance to taste several items as we nibbled our way from stall to stall, including tiny Turkish green plums, gigantic grape leaves, and even steamed mussels stuffed with rice, known as midye dolma in Turkish. Above is just one of the photos I snapped that day at the market, with more available here on the Share & Learn tab. Maybe they will inspire you to plan a visit yourself -- or, in the meantime, inspire you try some dishes on your own that combine a taste of Europe with a taste of Asia.
 
Good Land Organics + RND Vodka = Perfect Spring Cocktails Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 02:27
Ecotopia cocktail receptionTwo Santa Barbara institutions -- Good Land Organics and RND Vodka -- came together recently to create cocktails for a reception that was part of the city’s month-long Ecotopia celebration, and included many of the partners of Santa Barbara Car Free program, which offers discounts to those who make any part of their trip to the city sans car. To pair with the RND Vodka, Good Land Organics provided seasonal produce that included blood oranges for the blood orange martini (pictured left with Santa Barbara Car Free partner Lori LaRiva of SBCAG Traffic Solutions) and caviar limes for the Brazilian-inspired cairpirinha. Even better, they were nice enough to share the recipes. Enjoy!

Good Land Organics Blood Orange Martini

4 oz. RND vodka
0.5 oz. Triplesec
2 oz. blood orange juice
1 slice blood orange
How to mix: In a martini shaker combine all the ingredients, except the orange slices, with a generous amount of ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange slices.

RND Caipirinha with Caviar Limes

4 oz. RND vodka
1/2 of a caviar lime cut into wedges
1 tsp. sugar
Splash of Rose’s lime juice
1/2 oz. soda water
How to mix: Muddle lime, sugar and lime juice. Add RND vodka, shake and finish with soda. Serve with lime edge garnish.
Photo courtesy of SantaBarbaraCarFree.org
 
Touring the Santa Ynez Valley with Sustainable Vine Wine Tours Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Thursday, 28 April 2011 06:08
Richard Sanford at Alma Rosa

A trip to the Santa Ynez Valley wine country usually starts with visits to tasting rooms in Los Olivos, Solvang or Santa Barbara. And then, perhaps in an ode to “Sideways” (which was filmed there), it might move out to the wineries themselves to taste the wine (and hopefully not injure any spit buckets in the process). 

 

For those looking to deepen that experience, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours offers the ability to not only go out into the vineyards to learn more about the source of the wine -- this includes the grapes and, more importantly, the soil or (in wine terms) the terroir -- but also to spend time with the winemakers. On a recent tour, Sustainable Vine owner Bryan Hope took us through the valley (in a biodiesel van), where we stopped first at the Alma Rosa Winery and were able to visit with Richard Sanford (pictured above), who not only planted the first grapes in the valley 40 years ago but was also the first to go organic (inspired in part by his wife’s vegetable garden). 

 

Sanford is one of those people whose face is etched with a lifetime (or, at least, 40 years, following a stint in the Vietnam War and college at UC Berkeley) of doing something he loves. His philosophy: “Farm the grapes properly and let the wine make itself.”

 

Ampelos VineyardOur next stop was lunch, held under an oak tree on the Ampelos vineyard, where owner Peter Work helped explain some of the biodynamic methods he used -- and pointed out the barn owl box whose inhabitant helps keep the pesky predators in check organically and the new solar panels (beyond the vineyard right). The final stop was Demetria Estate, whose winery and vineyard -- also biodynamic -- is located on a gorgeous hilltop adjacent to the Zaca Mesa property. 

 

We learned something at each stop that not only illuminated the making of wine but also gave us tips that could be used in our home gardens (and vineyards, for those taking the plunge). One of the interesting facts I learned from the very-knowledgeable Hope is that many of the wines that are farmed organically are not labeled as organic because the USDA decided that if a wine contained added sulfites (naturally occurring in wine) it could not be labeled organic. I know I’m now going to be a lot more keen on checking labels for wine that was farmed organically and not so much for wines labeled simply as organic.

 

As a Santa Barbara Car Free partner, Sustainable Vine offers a $10 discount to those who show they traveled at least part of their trip car-free (easy to do with bikes and electric shuttles available throughout downtown Santa Barbara and Amtrak stopping right in the middle of town). Check the Santa Barbara Care Free website for more details.

 
A Hidden Gem in the Sierra Madre: Vallarta Botanical Gardens Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Friday, 15 April 2011 02:21

Vallarta Botanical GardenJust 12 miles south of Puerto Vallarta along the appropriately named Palms-to-Pines Highway lies an Eden for lovers of all things botanical. Opened a little over six years ago, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens features more than 3,000 different species of plants, including indigenous orchids, agave, tree ferns and wildflowers. The 20 acres of land also includes trails for hiking and a mountain river ideal for swimming.

As a nonprofit dedicated to the research and education of plant life, Vallarta Botanical Gardens has hosted a number of workshops, including a recent Copomo (Maya Nut or Breadnut in English) festival, where local producers turned the sustainable forest crop into eight different kinds of food. Plans for upcoming festivals include one for edible flowers.

Also on site is the Hacienda de Oro restaurant, featuring a brick pizza oven and Mexican favorites made (when possible) using local ingredients, including milk and cheese from the nearby town of El Tuito. Their tortilla soup was truly one of the best I’ve ever had and they were kind enough to give us the recipe. So enjoy! I know I will!

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