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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
New Studio Garden (Cocktails) at Montage Laguna Beach Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Studio garden at Montage Laguna BeachIt's hard to imagine a more beautiful spot for a garden than that enjoyed by the new chef's garden at the Studio restaurant at Montage Laguna Beach (right). Perched next to the Craftsman-style bungalow that houses the restaurant, the garden features beds that are built 31 inches tall (according to Chef Craig Strong, that is the exact height needed to keep the pesky bunnies that roam the property away) and filled with herbs and vegetables -- and companion flowers such as marigolds. Against the wall of the garden area, berries and other fruit grow -- protected (again, from those pesky bunnies as well as insects) with a row of alyssum.

Studio Executive Chef Craig Strong, who we first wrote about here in 2009 and who has provided us since with great recipes for salsa verde with spring garlic and watermelon, feta and black-olive salad, is long a proponent of using local seasonal products and a home gardener himself. While he still buys most of his produce from local farmers -- where he gets inspired by some of their discoveries (one of the latest was a leek blossom, which he has been using with sauteed swordfish), the new chef's garden allows him to do two things: 1. Pick herbs such as lemon verbena minutes before using it in, say, the aroma that accompanies his seared Hudson Valley foie gras and 2. create a series of signature cocktails based on what's growing in the garden.

Using a base of Cachaca, the first Studio Garden Cocktail featured tarragon, cucumber, basil and key lime, along with a splash of St. Germaine and champagne. The current Studio Garden Cocktail again uses Cachaca as its base and adds fresh lime juice, lavender-infused syrup and blackberry. For those who would like to try it at home, here is the recipe (click "read more"). Enjoy!

Apple, Avocado and Arugula Amuse from San Francisco’s Newest Star (Michelin, That Is) Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Chef Sri of Taj Campton PlaceThere’s something wonderful about traveling through a farmers market with a chef. You can almost see the little gears ticking as they make their way through the produce stands making decisions for that night’s menu. A few weeks ago, I got that chance at the farmers market held each Saturday morning at the Ferry Building in San Francisco (already a great hub for artisanal products) with Chef Srijith Gopinathan (left) of the Taj Campton Place San Francisco. Chef Sri hit at least a dozen stands for everything from baby beets to stone fruit. Some of the lessons learned: greens that will be used raw need to be more perfect looking than those that will be cooked, and borage flowers make a beautiful edible garnish.

Chef Sri’s Campton Place Restaurant recently received a Michelin star and it’s easy to see why -- the farm-fresh food is expertly prepared and the service is impeccable. Not to mention civilized: The meal starts with Master Sommelier Richard Dean coming by the table with a cart filled with a choice of four types of champagne as an aperitif. The spring tasting menu we enjoyed brought to life everything we’d seen at the market, including a baby beet salad with fennel ice, Andante Dairy goat cheese and lemon-infused olive oil; maine lobster butter poached with coconut curry, green peas and cilantro; sous-vide Angus beef with wild morels, cippolini onions and petit bok-choi; and caramelized chocolate cake with yogurt, pear and blood orange sorbet.

But the highlight (at least for me) was an amuse-bouche made with apple, avocado and arugula, not flavors I would think of putting together but blended in a way that was simply amazing, with each sip bringing out the best flavors of each. Chef Sri was kind enough to share the recipe. Now, many of you may not have N2O chargers and syphons (I know I don’t) but I’m sure it’s just as tasty as a gazpacho-style cold soup. Enjoy!

Mad for Macadamia at Hawaii's Puna Girl Farms Print E-mail
Written by Abbie Mood   

Puna Girl Farms signIf you've ever wondered what all goes into growing those wonderful macadmia nuts you get in Hawaii, a visit to Puna Girl Farms in Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island is definitely in order. On a recent tour of Puna Girl Farms through Kapoho Kine Adventures (currently the only way to tour the farm) on a trip set up by the Big Island Visitors Bureau, I learned a lot about all that goes into macadamia nut farming from owner Cherie McArthur. Cherie and her husband Ian first came to Hawaii's Big Island in 1990 for a visit and were hooked. They bought some land in Pahoa (part of the Puna area) and, after clearing out eight acres of jungle by hand over two years to save 600 Macadamia nut trees, Puna Girl Farms was born.

For any of you who might be interested in trying your hand at macadamia nut farming, here are some tricks of the trade that Cherie passed along: 

Peach & Tomato Gazpacho from Hadsten House Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Hadsten House restaurantIf you're like me, it's pretty much impossible to even say peach-and-tomato gazpacho without drooling or making that mmm-gurgling sound that Homer Simpson makes. Luckily -- especially with both peaches and tomatoes in season -- Chef Aaron Dixon of Hadsten House Restaurant (right) in Solvang was kind enough to share his recipe. I met Chef Aaron a couple weeks ago when I ate at the restaurant, which is part of the recently renovated and re-launched Hadsten House Inn & Spa, and can attest that his homemade mushroom-and-spinach ravioli is simply amazing (not to mention the baked brie with port-wine-infused apricots and figs). Okay, I'd better stop before I start making the mmm-gurgling sound again -- enjoy the gazpacho!

Peach & Tomato Gazpacho

By Chef Aaron Dixon
Makes 4 servings

4 cups chopped vine ripe tomatoes
2 cups fresh peaches pitted & chopped
1/4 cup crushed ice
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
Blend together until smooth 2/3 of the tomatoes, 1/2 of the peaches, with the ice, all shallots, 1/2 of the olive oil, 1/2 of the vinegar, 1/2 of the tarragon and 3/4 of the salt & pepper. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, discard the solids and mix in the orange juice.
In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients to create the salsa. To serve, ladle soup into chilled bowls and top with the peach & tomato salsa. Note: A good wine to serve with this soup is a Santa Ynez Valley Pinot Grigio (for instance, the 2009 Di Bruno Pinot Grigio).

Basil Margarita from Cheyenne Mountain Resort Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Cheyenne Mountain Resort basil margarita

Hello summer! And what better way to celebrate than with an ice-cold margarita. The Will Rogers Lounge at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs has created an award-winning summer margarita that uses basil (six types!) picked fresh from their on-site organic garden. Here is the recipe for the version that uses Thai basil. Feel free to experiment with other basil varieties you may be growing.



3 oz. Thai basil sweet & sour mix (recipe below)

1½ oz. Cuervo 1800 Silver tequila 

¾ oz. Bauchant orange liqueur


Shake all ingredients and strain over ice. Garnish with Thai basil leaves. 


To make Thai basil sweet & sour mix: combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup hot water in a blender and mix slowly. Add 20 Thai basil leaves and blend until completely chopped. Mix with 4 oz. fresh lemon juice and 4 oz. fresh lime juice. Chill overnight.

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