Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dining Out: From Farm to Table in a Greenhouse

How do two foodies celebrate Mother's Day? By getting the night before Mother's Day off from being parents and celebrating by eating on a farm.
Tenderstem Broccoli, Hakurei Turnip, Beef Tongue and Tail, Fava Bean Miso, Collard Kimchee, Smoked Sardine Gauram, Etna Pepper
Three weekends ago, cubes and I finally attended an Outstanding in The Field event. (The events sell out very quickly.) We headed south to Ben Lomond to Lindencroft Farm to sample the culinary wizardry of Sean Baker of Gather.
Before we arrived we were advised that there was no parking at the farm. We'd park in the neighborhood and then be shuttled up to the farm. Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard and Emily Thomas of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing had set up tables for the guests to have a glass of wine or sample beers. I'm not much of a beer drinker, and I don't do well switching between beer and wine, so we skipped the beers.
Wines from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard and Qunita Cruz
Unlike some of the other dinners, this event didn't sell out until a few days prior. I wanted this particular dinner because of the chef, Sean Baker. (When I lived in the South Bay I first sampled his food while he was at Zibibbio.) While we're not that far from Berkeley where his restaurant Gather is, we still have yet to make it across the bay to eat there. What intrigued me most about the dinner was the partnership Sean has with this particular farm.
Sean Baker preps appetizers
Whetting Our Appetite
I'd wondered what type of farm is nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains alongside redwoods. I was used to the farms lining the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean around Half Moon Bay or dotting the lowlands along the delta in the Central Valley. To our surprise a very non-traditional farm was the answer; all produce is grown in raised beds.
As we walked up the hill through terraced gardens of raised beds I reminisced about my first garden. If you've never tended a raised garden, be aware that it's a lot of manual work. With possibly the exception of breaking ground the beds once built are never tilled. Crops are turned under at the end of the season by hand and the soil is amended by hand.
I loved the story of Lindencroft Farm. Linda and Steven told us they were reluctant farmers, having retired to the property from Silicon Valley never envisioning a second career. Their property doesn't scream farm. They jokingly refer to themselves as soil makers as the native "soil" on their property is sand.
Touring Lindencroft Organics Farm
After the tour of the farm, we settled down for dinner. Dinner is served family-style, diners divided into "families" of eight. Usually I'm horrible with names, but everyone at our table had a name of someone in my family: Larry, Mary, Kristin (uncle and aunts); Patrick (cousin); and Maricar (member of YATP). Just over half the table was from the Bay Area, the exceptions were Larry and Mary author of The Immigrant's Table (*affiliate link) who were from Hawaii and Kristin who was from Southern California. Maricar knew Sean, she's his barrista, serving up a dose of daily caffeine at Spin City Coffee Bar just up the way from us in Noe Valley.
Family-style dining in a greenhouse
One thing I've learned is that when you are sitting down at the table of an amazing chef you try everything. Why? They know what they're doing. If you're going to try something for the first time that you've been afraid to try, have someone you know is going to prepare it correctly make it. (For full-size photos of some of the dishes, visit my Outstanding in The Field set on Flickr.)
Eating Family Style
Explaining Our Next Dish
Now until this event I hadn't really tried offal. Mention tongue or tail and I'd hightail it for parts unknown. (Pun intended.) Sean Baker has converted me. My favorite dish of the entire evening? Offal.
Have you tried offal?
Do you like it?

Offal is defined as "those parts of a meat animal which are used as food but which are not skeletal muscle, such as the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal." Sean paired beef tongue and tail with tenderstem broccoli, hakurei turnip, fava bean miso, collared kimchee, smoked sardine gaurum, and etna pepper. The dish was so rich with just a hint of heat. I loved it so much that I had three servings. (Had we not had another entree and dessert coming I probably would have had more!) My other favorite dish was sprouted farro verde. I'm really going to have to learn how to make farro; I've only had it twice, but loved it each time.
Aged Quail Stuffed with Duck & Dehydrated Vegetables, Smoked Beet Juice, Pinquito Beans, Fig Leaf Black Mole, Last Year's Red Habanero
Once the sun went down the temperature in the greenhouse began to drop pretty quickly, from 74 to 68 in about fifteen minutes. It wasn't until dessert that I needed to slip into my jacket. Overall the evening was very temperate. One thing to note if attending events on farms, bring either a headlamp or a flashlight. There will be some lighting, but if you're a klutz, like me, having a light you can direct at the ground to avoid roots or shallow steps, is helpful.
Ending the Meal by Candlelight
Bon Appetit!
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Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
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