Farm Dinner Updates. Gotta Be Here! #clericiranch #signorelloestate

We are very excited and proud to have Barbara and David Clerici host a fantastic farm dinner this summer.  They are opening up their ranch to all of us for an unforgettable evening of food, wine, and fun.  We will be featuring wines of the esteemed Signorello Estate paired with 5 courses of delicious Italian themed farmhouse cuisine which would not be complete without homemade Italian cream sodas.  Enjoy an exclusive tour of the ranch and watch your dinner being created right in front of your eyes in our open farm kitchen.

Dessert includes French pressed Napa Valley Coffee Roasters “Chinese Laundry” blend.  Feel great about participation in this event as proceeds go to help raise awareness about local food systems, help support lo cal family farmers and small local businesses, and Connolly Ranch, a local nonprofit organization that connects local area youth with nature through hands-on environmental education and nutrition programs.  Enjoy the slide show below which offers up views of Barbara and David’s ranch and photos of some past events.  Ciao and hope to see ya out on the farm!  Tickets available here.

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A Portion of Our Proceeds… #connollyranch #dirttodine

It has long been my goal to provide a portion of our proceeds from our farm dinners to a local nonprofit organization.  I feel it’s simply not enough to be utilizing local food producers to purchase food from.  There is so much more that can be done.  Nonprofit organizations are the unsung heros that work in the silent background to help change antiquated laws or provide valuable community services.  There are many out there.  My challenge was finding one that was inline with my goals and philosophies of helping support local agriculture and raise awareness about the importance of local food systems.  While there are many out there, I have found one that is able to be involved with the dinners and actively participate in promoting the cause.

Our initial goal was to donate $500 per sold out event.  Well, now we feel that it can be much more.  While keeping our farm dinner prices the same as our initial budget, I think that we will be able to put over 10 times more money into the hands of nonprofits.  Funds that will go towards on-the-farm programs geared towards school aged children.  Programs that teach children hands on about how a farm operates including everything from animal raising to composting to cooking and eating.  I was very impressed.  You can check out a bit about what they do in the video below.  And follow this link to their website to learn more and become a friend.  Better still, come out to one of our farm dinners (scheduled to be released May 1st) to learn more about what they do first hand.

A Hill of Beans

Beans.  What’s there to say?  The magical fruit.  Boiled beans can have a bad wrap for being boring.  Being a culinarian, I have a deep appreciation for beans because they are very versatile and carry flavors very well.  They have a great, satisfying texture and are very nutritious.  Problem is, It’s not easy to find good beans.  Commodity beans on the market today are mere holograms of the original, rich tasting heirloom varieties.  Supermarket beans can be many years old and beans do not age very well.  

With that being said, I have found a producer of these rich, heirloom variety beans and, what’s more, they are local to Northern California.  Enter in Rancho Gordo.  Steve started his bean company because he found supermarket produce lacked flavor and quality.  Lucky for us.  He also sells dried corn, chili, some grains and a few other goodies.  Check him out here;  http://www.ranchogordo.com/html/rg_story.htm

We are proud to announce that we will be using Rancho Gordo for all our bean and dried corn needs for every Farm Dinner Event.  Stop by the Rancho Gordo store in Napa or come to one of our farm dinners this Summer.  Our Farm Dinner schedule will be posted in the following weeks.

Artisanal Baker Chosen for Beyond The Kitchen Farm Dinners

After spending a little bit of time and “research” (read – eating), we have decided on a local baker to use for Beyond the Kitchen farm dinners.  The choice was made for several reasons.  Not only is the quality some of the best, but the story of this bakery and the history involved are a perfect fit for what we are all about.

1908 this place opened as a bakery in St. Helena and is continuing the tradition to this day.  Rechristened as the Model Bakery over 25 years ago, they still bake out of the same brick ovens that were originally installed in the 1920’s.  While I have yet to try them, I hear the english muffins are killer.

Farmers and Their Chickens

I have had the fortune of connecting with a man by the name of Douglas Hayes.  He is the one behind the Napa Valley Buckeye Chickens.  I was invited by his farm (or “Preservation Sanctuary Learning Center” as he has coined it) to see his operation and try to convince him to be a featured farmer for one of our Beyond The Kitchen farm dinners.  While he has a lot of space (over 30 acres) he has a very small area devoted to the raising and perfecting of the Buckeye chicken breed.  Image

Douglas is committed to preservation and sustainable agriculture.  Through the many hours speaking with him, I feel that he has always been this way.  This is not a trendy thing for him to be doing, rather a way of life he has always embraced.

Taken from his write up:

“The Buckeye Chicken:

The Buckeye chicken was created in Ohio by Nettie Metcalf before 1896.  Four Standard Bred chickens were used to establish the breed.  Buff Cochin, Barred Rock, Black Breasted Red Game, and Dark Cornish were crossed over a period of six years… the result of this selection is the Buckeye. The Buckeye is a Multipurpose breed with good meat and egg qualities.  At the height of popularity there may have been 2-3 million Buckeyes, by 1960 there were about 10,000 of these chickens; now, there are only 2188 Buckeye breeders remaining, of which there maybe only 500 with really good genetics.  The breeding Buckeye flock at this Preservation Sanctuary Learning Center is 125 chickens with good genetics, and is pasture raised.  The chickens are processed at 16-18 weeks the old fashioned way in a completely humane way.  These chicken know NO violence, only love.  No antibiotics, no preservatives, no hormones, no GMO Grain, and no additives are fed to the chickens.”
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I had the opportunity to cook one of his chickens recently.  I brined it overnight in a 6% salt water solution and roasted it whole, stuffed with onions, apples and sage.  Served it with roasted baby marble potatoes, green beans and linguica sausage.  I have to say, this was seriously the best chicken I have ever had that was super moist, crispy skin and dark meat that was so dark, flavorful and steak-like.  Wow.
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I can tell Douglas has a deep philosophy about food, life and living.  After knowing him, it’s easy to understand the words he chooses to finish his write-up:
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“If animals are raised with love and respect, processed with love and respect, cooked with love and respect, and served with love and respect, then we eat love and respect, and we are healed.”
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Look forward to meeting Douglas and having some amazing chicken with us on his sanctuary in mid August.  Details forthcoming.

“The Cajun Microwave” (or… How to Cook a 100 Pound Pig in 4 Hours)

I met a gentleman by the name of Roberto Guerra today.  He stopped by campus to take a tour and was introduced to me.  If anyone knows anything about authentic Cuban food or cooking styles, you will know Roberto.  A very nice, unassuming man, you could tell he walked with a certain pride.  Rightfully so.  This man (or more specifically his father) created what we know today as “La Caja China”.  This is an above ground roaster capable of roasting a 100 pound pig (or something like 16 chickens, 6 turkeys, whole goats, whole lambs, bushels of vegetables, schools of fish, herds of elephants (well, maybe not…).  You get the idea.  

4 hours.  No wonder why it’s affectionately known as the “Cajun microwave”.  It’s fueled by whatever combustible you can think of, typically charcoal or wood.  The box is made from wood and lined with aluminum.  The food is placed between 2 grills and lowered into the box.  The lid is placed on top and the wood is laid on top of the lid.  It’s lit and allowed to cook, radiating heat from the top down.  What’s so cool about this?  You can then grill whatever on the top.  

Now, I am really into some of the more modern, progressive cooking techniques that are out there.  This, however falls into more of the primitive category of cooking methods.  In general, while modern cooking styles require a great understanding of food science, it really is simple in the actual execution.  Primitive cooking requires working with live, unpredictable heating sources, often times outside environments, and unpredictable weather.  You really have to be on top of your game to come out with great results and feel primitive cooking like this requires much respect.

What’s also cool about this cooking style is that it’s got history.  Taken directly from Roberto’s website:

“Legend has it that Chinese workers brought this method of cooking with them when they came to Cuba to work on the railroads in the 1850’s, thus the name ‘Caja China’ which means Chinese Box. Others claim that similar boxes are used throughout the Caribbean for roasting but no one knows for sure why they are called Chinese. The origin of the name may remain a mystery. But the facts are undeniably mouth-watering. The Guerra family brought the secret of making these extra-ordinary roasting boxes from Cuba to Miami.”

Nice.  And these boxes have been picking up in popularity.  What’s more, they are perfect for our farm dinners we will me starting later this year.  Roberto is working on a pro series roasting box for The Institute that we will be able to use.  On top of that, being that his largest current model only holds up to 100 pounds, he is going to be making a larger prototype box that should be able to fit a 200 pound pig in for us that we will be using at perhaps our premier farm dinner.  Double nice.  Although I don’t know Roberto THAT well yet, I’m quickly becoming a big fan.  Check him out here.

New Local Tuna Special

I have finally (FINALLY!) hooked up with the Port Orford gang and they are now sending me fresh albacore tuna straight from the Oregon coast.  Here’s a special we’re running with it right now…  Sesame seared with a nice Asian slaw, tomato puree and avocado.  Turned out really delicious…

Join Me In July As I Cook For a Fantastic Farm to Fork Event July 23rd

I will be excitedly joining Matthew Domingo, Director of Farm to fork Events to be a guest Chef for his July 23rd event at Willow-Witt Ranch in Ashland featuring their wonderful pastured pork and goat.  Enjoy wines by Weisinger’s Winery as we celebrate local farmers and wineries and enjoy food right at the source.  It will be a fantastic opportunity to meet the ranchers and learn about what goes into a fun and fabulously prepared dinner.   Farm to Fork events have become known for their interactive dining formats and this evening will prove to be no different.  Come join us and see what’s new from The Jacksonville Inn.

New Cooking Demo Video

Here’s the latest video from KTVL Channel 10 West Coast Flavors.  Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

What is Sustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the USDA Website:

Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The term ”sustainable agriculture” (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

 

From Yourdictionary.com:

us·tain·able (sə stānə bəl)

adjective

  1. capable of being sustained
  2. designating, of, or characterized by a practice that sustains a given condition, as economic growth or a human population, without destroying or depleting natural resources, polluting the environment

I need to qualify this by saying I am not a farmer.  I respect farmers/ranchers/food producers.  It’s hard work.  It’s also very unpredictable.  Farming sustainability requires an understanding of the relationships between organisms and their environment.  One must benefit the other.  Consider it a closed loop system.  You don’t really need to introduce anything if done well.  Composting, water catchment and wind or solar power are examples of sustainable practices.  It’s important for me as a chef to understand how this works.  I need to understand why a commercial egg costs me 11 cents while a sustainable egg costs me 25 cents.  It’s important for my guests to understand this as well.

Food is getting more and more expensive.  There are reasons why.  Food in the US is cheaper than most other countries.  It’s artificially kept low by the government.  I don’t yet fully understand why.  I’m in the process of studying it now.  The main thing to know is that the food system must change.  If we are to continue as a people, we need to get back to basics and re-learn what our grandparents held dearly.  Are we as Americans generally privileged?  Yes.  Are we softer because of this?  Yes.  Will this be our undoing?  Only you can decide.  For now, support your sustainable food producers.  Just in case.  It may cost more, but can you put a price on a healthy planet?

West Coast Flavors in KTVL Channel 10 News.

Now that March Madness is over, Today was the second  airing of 6 episodes of West Coast Flavors we shot.  For all of you “Local” folks, it will be on Channel 10 KTVL at 5:00pm every Thursday.  Tune in and check it out…

If you want to check the episodes out on line, they will be posted here as they air:

http://www.ktvl.com/sections/recipes/

We got an extra minute today, so Grab 3.5 minutes worth of popcorn and enjoy!

Check Out 880 AM KCMX Medford

I will be on with Russ Batzer on Southern Oregon Live at around 7:20am St. Patrick’s day 3/17/11.  Check it out.

“Southern Oregon Live is an informative, innovative and inspiring radio program featuring people, places and ideas that convey the culture of our region. With an progressive format and friendly hosts, Southern Oregon Live establishes a platform for interactive communication with the goal to connect the community and strengthen the economy.”

Also, check out channel 10 news KTVL Medford today at around 5:15pm for our next segment of West Coast Flavor.  It’s nice to go beyond the kitchen some days.  🙂

http://www.kcmxam.com

http://www.ktvl.com/

 

 

 

Cooking up a Story…

One of the most comprehensive websites I’ve come across that covers everything from people and local farms to sustainable living.  Stop by for the latest food news and how it affects you.  Great stuff.  “Bringing the people behind our food to life”.

 

 

THRIVE Farmer’s Dinner Video

Here is a short video of the THRIVE dinner that happened at Roxyann Winery in September.  Thanks for all that came out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SemHOFYIeqI

Small Farms, Organic Growing, Sustainable Future…

Sounds great!  What will it cost? 

As a businessman, costs must always be watched.  I have an obligation to my employees to stay open so they can continue to work and earn an income.  As a Chef, I also have an obligation to support the local community/economy and use the most wholesome ingredients for my guests.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Besides, why would I purchase tasteless tomatoes grown in Mexico in August when I have 10 small farms growing the best within 5 miles of the restaurant?  Cost a lot less fuel to get here and the flavor can’t be beat.  Recently I started having some concerns….

I have noticed that the price of produce from small farms is more than mass produced, genetically engineered crap.  Granted the cost of operations is higher for the small farmer.  Now, this is what’s scaring me.  As I go out and visit farms and talk with the farmers, I have seen a large disparity from farmer A’s pricing to farmer B.  Both farmers are growing organically and the products are fantastic.  Why then is basil from one farm $4.00/lb and $10.00/lb from the other?  I could buy for $3.00 from Mexico, but that’s crap.  It gets more scary. 

I like to garden.  It takes a little set up to get a small garden going, but once there all you have to do is plant the seeds, cultivate/water and nourish, then harvest.  It is work, but is that work worth paying $10.00/lb for basil?  Think about this.  That’s more than filet mignon.  And it takes a lot more resources to raise and slaughter cattle. 

This blog was created with the thought that farmers and cooks need to be united for a sustainable future.  I have the utmost respect for farmers.  You see it on almost every post I publish.  But, when we get “Farmers” that just got into the business last week because they can make a “fast buck” just by planting seeds and trying to sell me $10 basil, something is wrong.  We all need to make money to sustain ourselves, but when I have to charge the same price for a plate of basil as I do for a plate of filet mignon, I will be out of business next week.  Pricing is important and I feel that some of this pricing is out of line and am unable to afford it.  Just something to consider. 

It has gotten to the point that I had this toothless “farmer” coming by and asking $16.00 a pound for some “fresh picked organic” basil.  Please don’t insult me.  I have basil growing in my garden and the seeds that will ultimately grow me 20 pounds only cost $1.29.

Food Revolution

It’s funny, Jerry handed me a newspaper article today that mention’s Jamie Oliver (British Naked Chef fame) and his new show that documents his efforts to start a food revolution in our American school’s food system.  What’s funny is that I received an email today from the web site “Cooking up a Story” which talks about the same show (http://cli.gs/B6PXTt). 

I normally reserve this blog for my work, what I do on a day-to-day basis.  I use it as a platform to grow ideas that can be executed in my kitchen.  I don’t normally write about politics or what’s happening outside my immediate arena.  This however, ties in directly with a food revolution that may have begun with Alice Waters almost 40 years ago.

At the Thrive Workshops I attended last month, there was discussion on how we could get local foods into our local school systems that would help foster a closed loop economic system.  More emphasis was placed on local food in local schools that was the fact that our kids are simply not eating healthy in schools.  Being a father of three young children that are in elementary school, this hits home. 

I urge everyone who reads this post to visit Hulu and watch the premier episode of Jamie’s program.  The full episode can be found here, http://cli.gs/jrhuJy.  It would be an incredible thing to see this be the catalyst that really gets the ball rolling to reform our broken food system starting in the most important place, our children’s schools.

Oregon Cheesemaker’s Guild Dinner Final

This was a great time.  Really enjoyed havin fun with some killer cheese.  Thanks for all that came.  We had a sell out crowd of 132 people. 

Ancient Heritage Dairy Scio Heritage Sheep’s Milk Cheese and Prosciutto Sandwich with Creamy Sweet Onion and Duck Confit Soup with White Truffle Essence

Green Olive Stuffed Quail over Tillamook White Cheddar Polenta with Crispy Cheddar Tuilles

Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Cheese Crusted Filet of Beef with Oregon Black Truffle-Potato Puree, Spring Onion and Sweet Pea Ragout and Local Cabernet Reduction

Three Ring Farms River’s Edge Fresh Chevre and Pistachio Truffles with Belgium Hot Chocolate Topped with Cocoa “Caviar”

Oregon Cheesemakers Guild Dinner SOLD OUT.

Sorry, folks.  I just got the cheeses today.  Man, are they fantastic!  Thanks to Rogue Creamery, Ancient Heritage Dairy, Three Ring Farms, and the Tillamook folks for all this killer cheese…  Here is the heart and the sole of the dinner.

Farming=Hard Work=The New Cool

I see a new trend that’s starting to emerge.  Chef’s have been wanting to get closer to the food that they are preparing and many actually have their own working farms rasing everything from pigs to a plethora of produce.  But, something more is happening. 

Farming is starting to take on a new mentality.  There are younger kids that are graduating high school and actively seeking internships at working farms (typically smaller, family run farms).  Not afraid of hard work, these kids realize that the best thing we can do for the planet is plant a garden.  There’s a higher sense of purpose now associated with farming.  A sort of getting back to your roots or getting back to basics.   I have always had tremendous respect for farmers and now I see a new generation not afraid to take risks and think (or grow) outside the box.  There’s a huge emphasis on growing organic, open pollinated and heritage (heirloom) varieties of produce.  It makes me proud to see the tides turning and witness a revolt against large, corporate run farms.  I truly believe the days of farming subsidies will be over soon as farmers are keying in on how to run a smart business focused on local communities, not how to mass produce tasteless vegetables and fruits and find ways to ship them thousands of miles away.  It’s with this new sence of pride and stewardship that I say “Godspeed”.  What can I do to help?

Oregon Cheese Guild Dinner Coming!

Mark your calendars.  March 19th at 6:15pm at the US Hotel right next to the Jacksonville Inn.  We will be featuring cheeses from Rogue Creamery, Three Ring Farms, Tillamook and Ancient Heritage Dairy.  Tickets are $75 a person all inclusive.

http://www.roguecreamery.com/product.asp?specific=231

Menu

1st Course:

Ancient Heritage Dairy Scio Heritage Sheep’s Milk Cheese and Prosciutto Sandwich with Creamy Sweet Onion and Duck Confit Soup with White Truffle Essence

2nd Course

Green Olive Stuffed Quail over Tillamook White Cheddar Polenta with Crispy Cheddar Tuilles

3rd Course

Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Cheese Crusted Filet of Beef with Oregon Black Truffle-Potato Puree, Spring Onion and Sweet Pea Ragout and Local Cabernet Reduction

4th Course

Three Ring Farms River’s Edge Chevre and Pistachio Truffles with Belgium Hot Chocolate

 

There is also a day-long festival on Saturday the 20th at Rogue Creamery in Central Point.  General admission is only $10 and $5 for a wine flight.  It will take place in a farmer’s market style under a huge tent and promises to be a lot of fun. 

“The farmer’s market format will present an interactive experience between makers and visitors, giving everyone an opportunity to talk about the product, the process and learn each individual cheesemaker’s story,” says David Gremmels, owner with Cary Bryant of Rogue Creamery. “It’s a way to truly be connected with the source of the cheese being presented.”

I hope to see you there!

 

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