Field Trip: Another County Heard From

October 15, 2014 § 1 Comment

This past weekend I left the 650 behind and took a little road trip north, heading across the Big Red Bridge to Marin County. With unseasonably hot weather and clear blue skies, you would have thought it was mid-summer, not two weeks away from Halloween; nonetheless, it was perfect road-trip weather. Even the usual 19th Avenue crawl to the bridge had an upside: a sighting of the Blue Angels flying by. Lucky sighting it was, too, as the bridge itself was completely covered in fog. (The Blue Angels made another fly by while I was crossing the bridge, but the fog was so thick that I could only hear the planes.)

First stop and main event of the weekend was Bounty of Marin Organic, a food-and-beverage event/fundraiser at Marin County Mart. Despite the 19th Avenue traffic, I arrived at Marin County Mart half an hour before the event started, giving me time to stop by the event area and say hello to Jan Lee of AppleGarden Farm, who had generously invited me to be her guest at the event.*

Jan Lee, producer of organic, handcrafted AppleGarden Farm Hard cider at Bounty of Marin Organic

The lovely Jan Lee, producer of organic, handcrafted AppleGarden Farm Hard cider
ready for tasters at Bounty of Marin Organic

Not only do Jan and her husband, Lou, own and operate AppleGarden Farm and AppleGarden Cottage bed and breakfast, but they also produce hand-crafted AppleGarden Farm Hard Cider from organic heritage apples on their property. Phew! Talk about a creative and energetic couple! Welcome hugs and hellos said, I left Jan to prepare for cider tastings, while I headed over to Miette Bakery to inhale indulge in a macaron or three.

Bounty of Marin Organic kicked off at 5pm with a tasting event that featured about a dozen of Marin County’s finest organic food producers, including Star Route Farms, Gospel Flat Farm, Mindful Meats, and Straus Family Creamery. Tastes included fresh raw oysters from Hog Island and small indulgences of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, and Tomales Farmstead Creamery. There were also a variety of prepared foods by chefs from local restaurants, such as Saltwater Oyster Bar, Parkside Cafe, and Left Bank Brasserie, who used seasonal products from Marin’s organic farms to create some savory tastes. (The tasting event was followed by a family-style, farm-to-table dinner, created by the food producers and chefs who had participated in the tasting. I didn’t attend the dinner, opting for a light meal at nearby FarmShop instead.)

As the tasting portion of the event kicked off, I started my Marin food “tour” with a glass of Jan’s AppleGarden Farm Hard Cider while we chatted a bit about her business and customers. The cider itself is flavorful, crisp, hardly sweet, and a touch effervescent — what a pleasant surprise! I think the first thing I said to Jan was “It’s not sweet, or too bubbly!” She smiled knowingly and then mentioned that it paired well with oysters (Hog Island was at the table to our left) and cheese (to our right). The fat Hog Island Oysters were calling me, so off I went.

For two hours, I happily tasted some of the best local, organic, and handcrafted food from the northern 415 and western 707 (aka, West Marin), sipping Jan’s cider in between tastes of North Coast biodynamic wines. Here are some the highlights from my Bounty of Marin Organic tasting experience.

Hog Island Sweetwater Oysters
What could be better than freshly shucked local oysters?! Apparently freshly shucked local oysters with a glass of Jan’s cider. Seriously. I’ve been challenged to find a good beverage pairing with oysters, but this could be it for me.

HogIsland-1

Yes, please! A mound of fresh Hog Island Oysters, just waiting to be shucked

Mindful Meats Brisket
Mindful Meats is a wholesaler that works with organic dairy farmers in Marin and Sonoma counties to source and provide pastured, organic, non-GMO meats. They partnered with Left Bank Larkspur, providing the beef for a Gaucho-Style Braised Beef Brisket with Chimichurri Sauce. The meat was so tender and flavorful, while the sauce added some spice and contrast to the rich meat.

Mindful Meats Beef meets Left Bank Larkspur's creativity

Mindful Meats Beef meets Left Bank Larkspur’s creativity

Savory Vegetable Pastry
There were some happy vegetarians in the crowd when they found this crispy, savory treat. Stinson Beach’s Parkside Cafe created a rich, crave-able savory pastry that featured Gospel Flat Farm’s 5-Bean Salad in a croissant-like pastry with crispy exterior. Mmm… crispy, soft, buttery, earthy goodness. To further enhance the deliciousness, you could top the pastry with a spoonful of McEvoy Ranch Olive Tapenade and a sprinkling of sea salt. (Oh yes, I did. And then I went back for seconds.)

Parkside savory vegetable pastry made with Gospel Flat Farm produce

Parkside savory vegetable pastry made with Gospel Flat Farm produce

Alongside the pastries (which were snapped up almost as soon as they arrived on the table), was a display of Gospel Flat Farm produce used to make the pastries. Need I say it? A great example of farm-to-table creativity.

A display of Gospel Flat produce used for the pastries, alongside the finished product made by Parkside Cafe

A display of Gospel Flat produce used for the pastries, alongside the finished product made by Parkside Cafe

Pumpkin Goodness
The table shared by San Francisco-based Boxing Room and local (as in: in the same shopping center as the event) FarmShop Restaurant was pumpkin central. These two restaurants showed just how versatile and tasty pumpkin can be. FarmShop’s contribution was a Pumpkin Hummus with spiced pepitas and pomegranate molasses, served on a house-made lavash. (And, by the way, this can’t-stop-eating-it snack pairs nicely with hard cider. The dryer cider balances and complements the sweetness of the pumpkin and molasses.)

FarmShop Restaurant's Pumpkin Hummus on Housemade Lavash

FarmShop Restaurant’s Pumpkin Hummus on Housemade Lavash

The Boxing Room’s pumpkin soup, on the other hand, was rich with a hint of spice. It’s the kind of soup I’d crave while curled up in bed on a cold, rainy night, but that could be fancy enough for a dinner party. There was already plenty of buzz about “the soup” before I got to try one of the last few samples, and yes, it was worth it.

Pumpkin Soup from Boxing Room: buzzworthy

Pumpkin Soup from Boxing Room: buzzworthy

This event was a fun (and filling!) opportunity to enjoy some of the best food that Marin County has to offer. I love the fact that an organization like Marin Organic exists to support and promote the local, organic and handcrafted products of the area. I’ll be back Marin, I’ll be back!

Have you experienced the bounty of Marin? What did you eat? Local oysters? Organic cheeses? An amazing restaurant meal? Share your Marin food experience!

*Full disclosure: I attended Bounty of Marin Organic as the guest of Jan Lee. My opinions are my own and not provided in exchange for attendance at the event, nor at the request of Marin Organic, Jan Lee, AppleGarden Farm, or any other participants in Bounty of Marin Organic.

Food Porn Roundup #1

November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

I know I skimped on the “show” part of show-and-tell from the first CSA box, so hopefully this photo roundup of the creations from box #2 will make up for that. If you over-indulged on Thanksgiving and are still in “I-never-want-to-see-food-again” mode, feel free to bookmark this post and come back at a later time. Otherwise, read on for the details of some of the dishes I made with the contents of my second CSA box.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Sage Leaves
I adapted this soup recipe from The New Vegetarian Epicure and The Silver Palate Cookbook, combining the recipes and making some tweaks. The resulting recipe is easy and tasty, but requires a few steps, so it really needs its own post (coming soon!). Oh, and a big Thank You to my friend Amy, who provided the inspiration for this project by pointing me to The Silver Palate recipe in the first place.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup Garnished with Crispy Sage Leaves and Yogurt

My Go-To Broccoli Side Dish
This dish is my version of comfort food: Steamed broccoli with roasted red pepper strips, goat cheese, fresh thyme, crushed red pepper, extra virgin olive oil, Maldon sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. (Just FYI, the need for comfort determines the amount and type of cheese added to this dish. Need for more comfort = Add more cheese.)

Steamed Broccoli

My Go-To Broccoli Side Dish

Much like the salads I make, there’s no actual “recipe.” Simply steam the broccoli for 3-4 minutes, add the other ingredients to taste, toss, and serve.

This dish works as a side dish or a main course, depending on your dietary choices and the amount of joy you get from washing dishes. (There are few things I like less than washing dishes, so I’m a big fan of weeknight one-dish meals.) Want to make it more substantial, but still keep it to a one-dish meal? Just toss in some chopped protein; tuna, grilled chicken, and tofu are good choices. Not feeling the goat cheese? Try feta, finely shredded aged white cheddar, or chunks of fresh mozzarella. You get the idea.

Roasted Carrots with Maple Browned Butter and Toasted Pecans
I’ve been meaning to attempt a roasted carrot recipe ever since tasting Vesta’s grilled carrot starter (see the Vesta Field Trip post for more info). As it turns out, roasted carrots are a bit tricky, but oh-so-delicious. You really have to keep an eye on them so that they don’t end up too soft — which mine almost did. The toasted pecans are optional, but add a nice toasty flavor and crunch. You could also substitute toasted, chopped hazelnuts for the pecans. (Recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe.)

Oven-Roasted Carrots with Toasted Pecans

Oven-Roasted Carrots with Toasted Pecans

Cranberry-Mandarin Scones
When I saw the fresh cranberries and satsuma mandarin oranges in the CSA box, my first throught was scones! And then I did a little happy dance right there in my kitchen. Seriously. These are my favorite scones, and the recipe is super simple.

Cranberry-Mandarin Scones

Cranberry-Mandarin Scones on Thanksgiving Morning

Cranberry-orange scones are a holiday standard in my house. I took care of the mise en place the night before Thanksgiving and was able to quickly make and bake the scones on Thanksgiving morning.

Mise en Place for Cranberry-Mandarin Scones

Mise en Place for Cranberry-Mandarin Scones

These scones best the day you make them, but will keep up three days in an airtight container. (Recipe adapted from epicurious.com.)

So… I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours! Do you get a CSA box? What do you usually make with the contents? Share photos if you have ’em!

Out of the Box, Part Deux

November 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

While I was being all giddy about my first CSA (“farmer’s market”) box, I was not being a good blogger and photographing what I actually did with the contents. So, this post is more “tell” than “show.” I really wanted to go with simple uses of the produce in the box to enjoy the flavors, so you won’t find any fancy cookin’ this time around. Oh, and I promise more food porn going forward, but for now… read on…

Kale and Potatoes
I used the kale and potatoes to make Mark Bittman’s Kale and Potato soup (from How to Cook Everything). The recipe is a super-simple and low-fat take on Portuguese caldo verde. With Bittman’s recipe, you simmer the potato and kale in veggie broth — each vegetable in a separate pot with its own broth — then puree the potato and use it to thicken the kale-broth mixture. With no added fat in the recipe, I felt rather healthy eating this soup, but the recipe was a bit bland. I would make it again with a few modifications: more potato for a thicker soup and more spices… possibly a bit of olive oil added.  The potato and kale flavors came through well enough, but it needed something more to give me that can’t-stop-eating-it experience.

Red Romaine, Persimmons, Apples, Pears… and Those Radishes
When I mentioned the contents of this box to a friend of mine, he said “That just sounds like one big salad to me.” Nothin’ wrong with that — I love salads! For me, making a good salad is a lot like making good chocolates: choose fresh ingredients that taste delicious and that add a variety of flavors and textures. (What do I know about making chocolate? Lots! Check out my previous gig.)

The red romaine was the foundation for my salads, then I just mixed and matched ingredients I had on hand:

  • Radishes, potatoes, tuna
  • Persimmons, dried cherries, goat cheese, toasted pumkin seeds
  • Persimmons, pears, apples, cashews, and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan
  • Smoked salmon, pears, goat cheese

You get the idea (and yes, I had a lot of goat cheese on hand)! Needless to say, I didn’t get through all of those radishes before the second box arrived. Which leads me to… tah-da!

The second CSA box in all its glory…

CSA Box 2 contentsThe rundown:
(1) small bunch Nantes carrots
(1) small bunch herbs (sage, oregano, rosemary)
(1) fennel
(1) bunch broccol
(1) butternut squash
(6) Satsuma mandarins
(2) apples
(1) container cranberries

A colorful assortment as we head into Thanksgiving week! Already I’m thinking about roasted veggies with fresh rosemary, maybe even  butternut squash soup garnished with fried sage leaves. First up, I’ll definitely be making my favorite Cranberry-Orange scones. The apples, though, are already gone. My 17-year-old kitty, Dante, absolutely loves apples, so we shared them for breakfast. It’s a good morning when I can share a sweet, organic apple with my favorite boy.

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