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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
A Hidden Gem in the Sierra Madre: Vallarta Botanical Gardens Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

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!

A Flair for Caviar - and Asparagus Soup - from Petrossian West Hollywood Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Petrossian caviar saladIf you’ve ever wondered what you would get if you matched an almost 100-year-old purveyor of caviar with a talented young chef, then a trip to Petrossian West Hollywood is in order. Chef Giselle Wellman has not only developed new ways to enjoy caviar -- with dishes such as a salad that uses butter lettuce instead of blinis with caviar, crème-fraiche-dill-lemon dressing, shallots, chives and hard-boiled egg (pictured left) -- but she has also started saving seeds for a small kitchen garden in the alley behind the restaurant.

Although the Petrossian signature menu, which includes faves such as the Egg Royal and high-end splurges such as the Tsar Imperial Caviar Trio ($390), does not change, the rest of the menu changes seasonally to get the most out of local produce. With asparagus season just around the corner, Chef Giselle was kind enough to share her recipe for a particularly yummy asparagus soup (which, as you can see from the photo below, pairs well with Petrossian's hibiscus champagne). Enjoy!

Sundays at the Ojai Farmers' Market Print E-mail
Written by Melanie Waldman   

Ojai Farmers MarketSurrounded by the enormous Topatopa Mountains and a few miles' worth of orange groves, the small Southern California town of Ojai is known for three things: meditation retreats, artisans and agriculture. To see how these three worlds mingle, stop by the downtown farmers' market any Sunday (rain or shine) between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Ojai Certified Farmers' Market features stunning produce, locally made olive oils, vibrant cut flowers and orchid plants, hand-woven baskets, organic soaps and skincare. Local musicians come out to play, friends reconnect, and occasionally, a rousing game of hacky sack breaks out on the nearby lawn. At this community meeting place, you'll see theater folk telling stories with a flourish, spiritual ascetics shopping for organic produce and farmers educating kids about where their food comes from and how it's grown.

Ojai Farmers Market 2And speaking of food: Didn't grow up in the Midwest (or miss it terribly)? This is your chance to try some cheese curds from California. Want to sample some of the best baked goods in town? Stop by early at Knead's table to pick up a ribbon-wrapped package of cheddar-jalapeño scones or hearty chocolate-chip cookies. Here you can find organic eggs and free-range meats, fresh tamales, gluten-free breads and much more.

Before you leave, be sure to treat yourself to some citrus fruits, the staples that made this area so popular in the first place. You'll rarely find a sweeter orange than at the Ojai Farmer's Market.

Ojai Certified Farmers' Market, every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
300 East Matilija Street, just behind the Arcade on Main Street in downtown Ojai, California

Vegan Curry Chick Pea Couscous From Fairmont's New Lifestyle Cuisine Plus Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Fairmont Vancouver vegan couscousIn an attempt to cater to the increasing variety of dietary concerns and requests from its guests – from gluten free to macrobiotic to vegan -- Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has launched a new culinary program called Lifestyle Cuisine Plus. Through the program, Fairmont chefs are given additional training and on-site software that analyzes nutrition content, and then encouraged to create dishes appropriate for their particular destination. Most Fairmont hotels already offer farm-to-table cuisine (many from their own kitchen gardens and bee hives) so the new program – the “plus” if you will – is the addition of health and wellness benefits to the seasonal, local fare already in place.

As an example of one of the new menu options, here is a recipe for vegan curry chick pea couscous from The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Others can be found on Fairmont's Everyone's An Original site. Enjoy!

A Passion for Local, Seasonal and Sustainable at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Andres Jimenez at Ritz-Carlton, Laguna NiguelA childhood in Costa Rica surrounded by farms helped form Chef Andres Jimenez's passion for local, seasonal, sustainable and organic products. It's a passion he's been able to share with others as the executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Not only does Chef Andres partner with local farms that include Maggie Farms, Tuti Fruti, Gloria Farms, VR Farms and Aqua Farms (for mussels, clams and oysters) but he regularly takes guests on tours of the resort's own herb garden, put in last year as part of the Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program. Here is a short video with Chef Andres in the garden talking about how to work with the herbs rosemary, parsley, sage and thyme.  

In a recent cooking demonstration at the resort (on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean no less), Chef Andres shared with us this recipe for pomegranate and bulgur wheat salad (click "read more" for recipe), which is as delicious as it is healthy -- not to mention garden-friendly. He also left us with this nifty tip: If you want to illustrate the importance of buying organic, just taste the difference it makes in butter. 

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