Friday, March 19, 2010

Full Crow Moon Supper

On March 15th, 2010, Salt Water Farm held the "Full Crow Moon Supper" in honor of St. Patrick. It is said that the crow's caw in April to announce the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Chresten Soronson, a artisan baker and home brewer from Portland brewed an Irish Red and an Oatmeal Stout for the occasion, the later of which was used to braise beef and in a molasses chocolate cake with whiskey cream. The potatoes we used were "wintered over," a common treatment to parsnips, where the root vegetables are left in the ground as the outdoor temperature fluctuates above and below freezing. This process converts the starches to sugar, sweetening the product. Ladleah Dunn, was officially introduced as the farm manager and kitchen assistant at Salt Water Farm. She will be teaching a cheese making class on March 28th and there is only one spot left for anyone interested. The Moon Suppers have been such a tremendous success that from now on they will be held twice a month, instead of once a month. That about sums it up. Here are some shots from the supper taken by my dear friend, Elizabeth Noble.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I've never felt passionately about wine, they way I do food. I realize they go hand in hand and a general knowledge of grapes, regions and flavor profiles is necessary in order to run a successful food business. I relish good wine, so much so, that just the smell of a good St. Emillion or Borolo has me lost in unfounded nostalgia, but I have yet to master the study of wine production. Not to mention, I can't afford the bottles that I want to drink.

Anyhow, I visited the Russian River Valley, starting in Healdsburg. The town square is lined with wine tasting galleys and quaint cafes, bookshops and kitchen stores. It's a tasteful tourist trap. I followed Westside road through wine producing country and stopped off at a few vineyards to wrap my head around California wine culture. All the vineyards have tasting rooms, some modern and some antiquated. None of the wines tasted as good to me as those I'd had in Europe and I couldn't bring myself to buy a bottle. It was quiet, not much tourism this time of year because harvesting is several months off.

I drove along River Road and out to the coast, where Goat's Rock Beach is located, just South of Jenner. It was windy and the waves smashed up against the rocks with such ferocity that I felt nervous despite my distance from the sea. Lines of children, presumably on a field trip, held there arms out, inviting the the wind to push them over. I followed the Pacific Coast Highway down to Bodega Bay, a funny little surf town on the Sonoma Coast. The drive was spectacular, every inch of the way.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I'm driving back and forth on a dark, quiet street in the Mission looking for any sign at all that indicates the location of Saison, a restaurant I had a vague recollection of making a reservation at. My date for the night is Caroline Trainer, a childhood friend and a good sport when it comes to entertaining me "while I work." Finally, she calls the restaurant and asks for more precise directions. A woman at the other end of the line says, "look for a dark alley on the North side of the street." We park the car and begin walking. Despite the fact that it feels as if we are in the ghetto, there are extremely expensive cars lining the street: Mercedes, Jaguars, Land Cruisers . . . We see the alley and peak in. A newly planted lavender tree in a court yard signifies that there is life in all this darkness. We wonder in, cautiously and at the end of the alley is a small table with 25 champagne glasses on it. A woman emerges, presumably the hostess, and pours us a glace. There are a few other dazed and confused people standing around with champagne glasses in their hands and it is clear that they have a thousand times the income that I do. That's probably a modest estimate. Luckily, Caroline and I are wearing new dresses, nice leather boots and some jewelery. I asked the hostess what the program was and she looked at me suspiciously. It felt like "Eyes Wide Shut" for a moment, like I was the only one without a clue as to what was about to happen. The other twenty or so guests arrived, one couple at a time, all dressed exquisitely. The hostess led the group through the kitchen, a huge space where the chefs watched our every move. The dining room was a sort of extension of the kitchen, with one large table in the center and a couple peripheral tables. Of course, we were sat on the periphery, as not to disrupt the elegant state of things.

In front of us was an 8 course menu, accompanied with wine pairings, all of which turned out to be bottomless. Without going into tremendous detail about the food, I will simply say that it was the best meal I've ever had.

March 2010

Little leeks, wild caviar, meyer lemon

Our farm EGG, smoked butter & golden trout roe

ROOTS stewed with bonito, caramelized shoots, leaves & flowers

petrale SOLE, artichoke citronne, vadouvan spices

crimson BEET aigre-doux, hibiscus & bone marrow

sonoma LAMB, whole-roasted with warm spices, natural jus

point reyes inverness sun toasted walnuts

SATSUMA ice cream mandarin gratine

chocolate-walnut crumble, salted caramel ice cream


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Mission

Activism was born in the Mission District. I went to meet an old friend at his apartment on 18th and Anderson and it was like walking into a scene from "Almost Famous." I was introduced to a series of interesting people: a woman sitting at a sowing machine in her underpants, another on the floor with a board across her lap, covered in fortune telling cards, a band playing bossonova music in the kitchen, a couple circus performers and a slew of other colorful characters. Fifteen people in all lived in this commune, where they all slept at night was unclear. We headed to a dinner party where "Homemade Hustle," (a vegan catering company made up of two girls dressed like it's 1985), were testing out recipes for an upcoming event. In a back room, a beautiful brunette with thick, tortoise-shell frame glasses read her own poetry with a fierceness I haven't heard in my lifetime, a room full of people listening intently and cheering her on. I didn't know that this scene still existed in our modern day world. I must have heard the word "interconnectedness" seven or eight times before I headed home.

The following day, I went to a private dinner put on my chef Sam Mogannam and farmer Martin Bournhonesque at 18 Reasons (18th and Valencia), a non-profit space created by the owners of Bi Rite, a company that brings farms, restaurants and a grocery store together in a single collaborative effort. At the table was the copy writer for Edible San Francisco, restaurant owners, farmers, food enthusiasts and Rachel Cole, the project's organizer. We discussed the similarities between Salt Water Farm's community dinners and those at 18 Reasons. The menu was simple and sublime, showing off seasonal produce, local cheese and a smoked goose breast that was outstanding. The space also lends its self to local artists and social events to help create community. (

Salt Water Farm in New York Magazine

"Go Beyond the Lobster in Maine"

By Adam H. Graham

"Sails are lowered for the winter in Camden, but vineyards, farm markets, and cooking schools are turning this town into the Napa of New England."

It's a small mention and its accuracy is questionable, but Moose and Moxie made it into New York Magazine!!!

In January, Adam Graham, a writer for the New York Times and New York Magazine came to Salt Water Farm for a late morning brunch, made up of a duck confit hash, homemade breads, a roasted beet and winter green salad and a selection of local goat cheeses. Afterward, we walked down to the water with the pups and discussed the various events that Salt Water Farm puts on throughout the seasons. Adam, like many people I meet randomly, is from my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, Carrol, (Gardens/Cobble Hill), and we shared a list of our favorite places to eat back in the city. Let' just say the man has good taste.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Edible Schoolyard, Boulette's Larder

This morning, I met my Aunt for lunch in the ferry building at Boulette's Larder. The exposed kitchen is composed of a large island and hood, from which dozens of well-cared-for copper pots hang, ready for use. A beautiful stone cooking fireplace sits beside a long, elegant table. A poised staff in bleached chef whites preps for service, their knives sharp. The formula at Boulette's Larder is a fixed price dinner for twelve guests and an a la carte lunch menu consisting of four or five daily items. I ordered the sardines, which which were pleasantly charred with a milky vegetable braise below them and two perfect grilled asparagus spear on top. The chef is French trained with San Francisco's most extraordinary farmer's market outside her door. Not to mention, a fish market, pork market, a mushroom market and many others. This was a recipe for divinity from the start. I was told not to take pictures so you'll have to go to the website for a peak. (

Today, I went to Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley to meet with Shaina Robbins, the director of the Edible Schoolyard program. A Wisconsinite, like myself, she had recently left her career in New York City to take a more hands on approach in the world of food education. Alice Water's is the mind behind the Edible Schoolyard and it is he beating heart of a revolutionary movement to teach children where the food they eat comes from. At about 1:30 in the afternoon, classes were in session in both the garden and the kitchen. Shaina explained to me that the goal was to teach the students the process by which plants are converted into food. For instance, in 6th grade, the children sow wheat seed and tend to it. In 7th grade, they harvest it, seperate the caff and grid the remaining wheat into flour. In eight grade the students make pizza dough from the wheat flour, as well as tomato sauce and pesto, which is frozen. And on a final celebratory day, they use the outdoor wood burning pizza oven to bake off their own pies.

The garden is beautiful and well established and the staff that maintains it is devoted to project. Chickens peck at the open piles of compost and straw mushroom houses hang from the trees. In the kitchen, students do all tasks by hand or with old fashion equipment such as wooden tortilla presses, mortar and pestles and apple presses, a lesson that you don't need machines in order to cook dinner. The kids have "knife privileges" and don't dare lose them.

Efforts similar to this have been made across the country but not nearly enough. It had me thinking about Maine's childhood obesity problem and the need for food education. Just being outside and working seemed more productive than any math class I can remember attending.

Afterward, I headed over to the Berkley farmer's market, where music from another era filled the air and a mixed crowd shopped for dinner. Nearby, is what the locals refer to a the "Gourmet Ghetto," a string of specialty food shops selling good quality cheese, meat, artisan breads, spices, dried fruits, nuts and other fodder at reasonable prices. Chez Panisse is along this strip, so I ducked in to poke around. The kitchen was a thing of beauty, the pre-service mis-en-place in progress. This is was my favorite time of day when I worked in restaurant kitchens, the sound of only knives hitting cutting boards, and the occasional blender uproar but no conversation. Then I headed upstairs to the cafe to confirm my reservation for that evening. There behind the bar was Alice Waters herself and my heart pounded. I watched her move around her legendary restaurant, making sure everything was in it's place. She smiled and I smiled in return. There's no better conversation than that. I was more than satisfied.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mill Valley

It's hard to document a trip when you're alone and driving eighty miles an hour. Highway 101 between LA and and San Francisco is sandwiched between two mountain ranges, vineyards, farms, olive trees and migrant worker towns. It's sort of a happy medium both time-wise and beauty-wise between Highway 5 and Highway 1.

The trip took eight hours in total, including a stop in Los Olivos, where at ten thirty in the morning, the smell of tri tip permeated the air and the wineries were just starting to open their doors for tastings.

The sun was setting as I descended into the bay area and clouds revealed temporary and isolated views of the land and sea, not enough for me to get oriented. My destination was Hillside Gardens, which is also the venue for Savory Thymes, an event space run by my host, Ali Ghiorse. Ali started her work in San Francisco's Mission District, organizing community and outreach programs. Several years later, she moved to Mill Valley and teamed up with Hans Schoepflin to produced a variety of food events benefiting the non-profit sector. The events take place in an intimate amphitheater, tucked into the hillside on the lower portion of the property, sheltered by 200 foot eucalyptus trees and surrounded by lush gardens. They also keep a half dozen bee houses to help pollinate the flowers and a sweet little green house to start germination. Smaller events are held in a lovely dining room, beside a European style kitchen.

When I arrived there was a dinner party in progress. An Italian fellow brought flights of wine starting in the North of Italy and moving down South. Him and his wife lead trips to Sicily in the spring and summer and often organize underground supper parties at Ali's house. This Saturday, they are doing a Sicilian feast for 25, featuring a suckling pig from a local farm. I got invited once I told them what I do, thankfully.
The next morning I headed into North Western Mill Valley to Point Reyes Station, a small town who's focus is sustainable farming. It is home to Marin Organic, (an organization that supports local farmers) and the now famous Cowgirl Creamery. I ate lunch at Stellina, a local spot that does a lovely job of featuring all the meats, dairy and produce that the area has to offer. I had a fava bean leaf salad with a lemony blue cheese vinaigrette and an oyster and leek pizza that tasted sweet and like the sea. An interesting and eloquent combination.

Then I headed to Bolinas, where lush green farms stretched out across the countryside eventually meeting up with the ocean. It was hard to find because, apparently, the locals keep hiding the signs that indicate the town's location, to avoid an influx of tourists like myself. I followed Highway 1 up onto the ridge that follows the shoreline, several hundred feet above sea level. The road winds tightly around the mountains edge and one slip of the wheel has you plummeting to your ultimate demise. But it was beautiful . . . kelly green hills, dramatic rock formations, the water smashing against the cliffs and I was all alone. No cars, no houses, no people.

A sign said "San Francisco: 16 miles" and I could hardly believe that civilization was in such close proximity to this unearthly place.

That night, I went to the Buck Eye with Julie and Ali, an old steak and martini joint in Sausolito. Every town needs a good watering hole. Afterward, we headed to Julie's house boat, which is an experience unlike any I've had. The boats are all entirely unique in character; they almost look like they could talk and walk as if in Sesame Street. Each boat contains residents, all of which, according to Julie have an interesting story. There are some 200 boats in the community and approximately 450 residents. The area is tidal and when we were there, the boats were not afloat, they were resting on the sand. Julie tells me about her current project, "Swap Cabbage" a film about Florida Crackers. I can't wait to see it.