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.

Beyond the Kitchen Farm Dinner Announcement

We have been working hard hammering out the details for our premier farm dinner series.  Well, we are now one step closer!  We have decided to use Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company coffee for our events.  I met Charlie today at the Saint Helena roasting house and sampled many selections.  He seemed pretty excited when I mentioned that it was all going to be French pressed.  I can’t blame him.  So, look for Charlie’s roasted coffee at our events as we celebrate all the greatness Napa Valley has to offer! 

Homemade Farm Fresh Soda

Yep, a lot of us are addicted to soda.  4 out of 5 of us in this household are junkies.  And last I heard, soda doesn’t do a lot of good for our health.  With that being said, I want to serve soda at our farm dinners.  I am not one of the four addicted in our house, however I think a well crafted, Italian style soda, made right on the farm would be a welcome addition in the hot afternoons.  So, I’ve got this cool mid-century 10 gallon soda keg from Niagara Falls Pepsi-Co that I have thought about using for about 5 years now.  I bought it when I lived in Hawaii and It’s been collecting dust.  Well, today I disassembled it, changed all the crumbling o-rings, scrubbed it, sanitized it, and ran scalding hot water through it.  I wasn’t even sure if it would work, so I charged it with CO2 and looked for any leaks.  Stayed sealed tight and this is what I ended up with:

So, this is what I am going to do.  I am going to fill the tank with farm spring water and carbonate it.  We will have fresh fruit and berries (whatever’s in season) that we will turn into syrups.  As our guests are arriving, we will pour the syrups into glasses and top them off with freshly carbonated spring water.  Voila!  A round of homemade farm fresh sodas for everyone.  Or how about a peach and amaretto flavored soda?  A light blast of farm fresh cream?  This is gonna be awesome!

“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…

Wild Ramp Butter

I made a lot of ramp butter with some more ramps I got.  Thinking something with oven braised rainbow trout….

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.

Rogue Flavor Dinner Coming! September 19th.

On Sunday, September 19th, Farmers and Chefs from the Valley will be getting together at Roxyann Winery to create a memorable 5 course meal to support THRIVE.  I will be working with Bradford Family Farm and their wonderful chickens to create the entrée course.  There will be many farmers and chefs participating and this will be a great opportunity to meet local chefs and farmers and see what’s going on locally.  Like I say, plant a garden and save the world.  I hope to see you there.  Buy your tickets today here:

Rogue Flavor Dinner Tickets

Sous Vide Watermelon

We’re getting some really nice local watermelons in now…  Pickled red onions, feta, hazelnuts….

First Harvest!

We harvested Giant Red Mustard, Blue Vein Kale, Pea Tendrils, Curley Cress and Cilantro, all in the micro stage.  It wasn’t a lot, but it’s starting!  Very exciting.  The weather’s warming up and things are starting to really grow.

Cultivated Mushrooms

Forget the portabellos, shiitakis and oysters.  There are a newer variety of cultivated mushrooms out there now.  The still carry the wild mushroom price tag though at a hefty $11/lb.

New Chicken Dish

Sous Vide Chicken with Linguisa and Caramelized Fennel Risotto, Toasted Garlic-Saffron Broth and Smoked Paprika Oil

New Spring Duck Dish

Slow rendered duck breast with wilted Spring spinach and duck confit salad, cauliflower puree and wild huckleberry jus.

Seeds of Change

We have been reconditioning our gardens and are just about ready to plant some seeds.  Tonight is suppose to get below freezing but we hope that the weather will soon hold.  Looking at planting heirloom tomatoes, red, purple, white, yellow and orange baby carrots, pickling cucumbers for pickles, summer squash, radish, herbs, herbs, herbs, baby broccoli, peas, kales, and whatever else I can squeeze out of this little area!

Organic Sweet Pea Soup with Seared Scallops and Vanilla Oil

We’re getting some great organic peas from Washington right now and wanted to show them off.  The vanilla oil we started 3 months ago in anticipation of spring and peas.  The pea tendrils garnishing the top comes from our kitchen micro greens garden.  Finished with some dots of creme fraiche. 

Easter and Spring Kitchen Garden

Had a great time cooking for 350 for Easter Brunch.  Thanks for coming out.  Here are some shots of our Spring Kitchen Garden.  The peas are coming along nicely.  They are only 8 days old.  The tendrils are ready to harvest.

Greek Independance Day.

The celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25th draws inspiration from one of the holiest days for Greek Orthodox Christians, the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is the day that the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a child. Bishop Germanos of Patras seized the opportunity by raising the banner of revolution, in an act of defiance against the Turks and marked the beginning of the War of Independence. Cries of Zito H Ellas and Eleftheria H Thanatos can still be heard today. These freedom fighters, or klephts as they were called, of Greece sacrificed much for their country. Kolokotronis, Nikitara, Karaiskakis, Bouboulina, and Mpotsaris are some of the heroes of the revolution.

The struggle for independence was supported abroad by intellectuals of the day. In addition to the Secret Society of Friends (Filiki Etaeria) and the Sacred Band (Ieros Lohos) prominent world figures including Lord Byron of England, Daniel Webster and Dr. Samuel Gridly Howe of the United States raised the interest level among Europeans and Americans.

After centuries of unsuccessful uprisings and failure of the Ottoman Empire to assimilate and convert the Greeks, The War of Independence began in 1821 rising up against 400 years of occupation and oppression by the Ottoman Turks. The origin of the Turkish occupancy began in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople (currently referred to as Istanbul). All true and faithful Hellenes living in their occupied homeland reacted to the Turkish oppression and resisted the attempts to deprive the Greeks of their heritage, their freedom and their religion. During the dark years of the Ottoman occupation, thousands were killed and tortured for attending church or teaching their children culture, history and language. It was the Greek Orthodox Church that helped to retain their very identity by the institution of Crypha Scholia (Hidden Schools).

For eight years the fighting ensued, until 1829, when the Sultan Mahmud II, facing Soviet troops at the gates of Constantinople, accepted Greek independence with the Treaty of Andrianople. Copyright 2002 Middlesex Media Exchange.

So, seeing as Platon is Greek (as he reminds me everyday), he has put on a Greek independence day wine dinner with everything Greek.  apparently he has put on these dinners every year for the past 200 years (or something like that).  I felt honored to be a part of this dinner and learned a lot about Greek food and tradition.  We had a belly dancer, Ouzo, lots of Greek (wine?), Platon’s magical storytelling and tons of fun.  Here are some shots of the food.  This was yet another sellout event.  Platon worked with us in the kitchen and produced about 99% of these items and they were super.

First of the Local Season.

Thanks to Louis at Mushrooms All Year for getting these for us!

Now all I need are some ramps!

Techniques.

How do you get 132 filets cooked to Medium Rare at one time all at once?

Why, Sous Vide of course…

And how do you melt some of the best blue cheese in the Nation into the filets?

With a *LITTLE* propane.

 

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.

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