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.

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!

Straw Bale Garden In the Works

I first heard about this technique a couple of months ago.  The idea is that you can start the composting process in the bales by letting nitrogen (in my case, organic chicken manure) soak into them and allow them to “cook” over the space of a week.  (See previous post for details).  

Now that we have started our rainy season, I have purchased 4 bales of straw and have set them out into our mini farm.  My “farm hands” spread the manure over the tops and soaked them in real good.  We’ll continue the soaking process a couple of times a day unless it’s raining.  Hopefully these guys will start heating up real well and maybe we’ll see some mushrooms poking out.

After the bales cool down when the reaction subsides, the natural nitrogen in the straw will be available for whatever we want to plant.  We will be using them mostly for micro kale, micro cucumbers, pea tendrils, red vein sorrel, and nasturtiums for our Beyond the Kitchen farm dinners.  It’s gonna be great!

The Slaughtering of Animals

I had the opportunity to join a small farm as the called in a small, mobile slaughter truck that came in and slaughtered a cow and a Mulefoot hog.  It was a calm and quick .22 shot to the head.  The use of a mobile unit coming to the farm is preferred because the pigs live a happy, healthy life on the farm and to truck them away would add undue stress.  They were then processed in the space of about 30-40 minutes a piece.  It was amazing to watch, but unnerving at the same time.  I appreciate animals for food so much more now.  What was even more amazing was listening to the slaughterer and the farmer discuss the current affairs of big agribusiness and factory farms and how sad the condition of our food supply system is in.  My new favorite quote is the farmer saying “Pigs in factory farms are merely holograms of the real thing.”   The following pictures are a bit graphic.

 

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Local Wheat

Here is a pic of the wheat we grew here at the Inn from some local seed stock…  I have never actually seen wheat growing.  It’s a blast teaching the kids about wheat and how you make bread and cereal and all the wonderful other things that are associated with it.  True food, not processed.

Wheat from Dunbar Farms, Southern Oregon

We have spread some wheat berries from Dunbar Farm around our garden a few months ago when it was really cold out.  Actually, it was our chief maintenance man, Trapper who grabbed a handful back in February when I was toiling with what to do with them.  Well, now that it’s warm, and the sun is shining, this is what we have…

 This is a great example of natural selection.  This wheat is grown in this area and selected for these growing condition.  I’m not sure of the lineage of this red wheat before I got it, only that it is an heirloom variety…  But we have kept it going for another season.  Perhaps we will continue to replant it season after season and show how this wheat is much better than GM seeds that have no value after it’s planted.  My seeds have history and can be replanted year after year, adapted to this region, unlike the genetically modified wheat that can only be planted for one season, then it’s lost.  Only time and people can decide what’s better.

Farmer Platon Getting Ready to Plant Our Heirloom Tomatoes

Here is Platon working the land and planting his tomato plants.  Don’t know where is farmer hat is…  Can’t wait till we can feature these tomatoes on our Summer menu!

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.

House Made Canadian Bacon

We have started making our own canadian bacon.  Partly because high quality bacon has gotten REALLY expensive  lately and partly because this house made product is MUCH better than the high quality product we were using. And now we can feature pork loin from local producers like Willow-Witt Ranch…

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?

Farming is the New Cool.

As I have said before.  Youngsters are finding value in hard work again.  Here’s an excerpt from “Cooking up a Story”…

March 10, 2011 As the season begins to change to Spring, I've noticed a lot
more attention being paid to the small farmer. Last week the New York Times
ran a piece on the growing interest of small farming with 20-30 year olds.

Check out the whole article here:
http://cookingupastory.com/interest-in-small-farms-grows?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CookingUpAStory+%28Cooking+Up+A+Story%29

Urban farms are gaining in popularity too.  As a Wise (?) Greek recently told me, The future belongs to the ones who can grow food….

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”.

 

 

West Coast Flavors Featuring Jacksonville Inn

Today is the first airing of 6 episodes of West Coast Flavors we shot a couple days ago.  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/

Grab 2.5 minutes worth of popcorn and enjoy!

Spring Garden Prep

We are starting to get things ready for our spring garden.  The hibiscus plants that that were planted some 20 years ago have been removed and transplanted to allow more sunshine for the new seedlings.  We will also be expanding the garden area so we can build on our success from last season…

Hibiscus plants removed

 

ALL hibiscus removed.  Will be re-planted with a larger variety of edible flowers like nasturtiums.

 

Almost all of what you see should be expanded to garden space

New Duck, Version 1.2

Here it is…  This is made with Dave Mostu’s Local Wheat Berries turned into a pistashio-cranberry pilaf, roasted beets and golden beet puree and wild huckleberry jus.  This is the same method as the sous vide duck in the older preparation…

How Fine Dining Continues to Evolve.

Here is another article from last year that shows how fine dining is evolving and changing.   Decades ago, fine dining may have been a white table cloth with costumed servers and large portions of expensive meats and some sort of potato with a random vegetable.  Then it turned to the foie gras and caviars, lobster and exotic, expensive items from around the globe.  Things are changing again and it’s not about how expensive the ingredient is, simply how well it is prepared.   It has long been my philosophy that all ingredients have equal culinary value, regardless of cost. 

http://coirestaurant.com/carrotsarethenewcaviar/

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

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