Monday, August 27, 2012

A Collaborative Feast: Santa Cruz’s Westside Farmers’ Market Pop-Up Breakfast

This just hit the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Click here to read the piece on the blog.

Written and Photographed by Camilla M. Mann
1When Edible Monterey Bay approached Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market director Nesh Dhillon with the idea of collaborating on a pop-up meal, he picked breakfast. “Everyone does dinner,” he reasoned, “but no one does breakfast.”


On Saturday August 25th, Dhillon teamed up with Chef Kevin Koebel, and his organization Local FATT (Food Awareness Through Teaching), to present a menu that showcased regionally significant food at this farm-to-breakfast table pop-up event. Local FATT urges consumers and farmers to build full-circle food systems that blend knowledge, passion, intelligence, and integrity.

Imagine the jovial scene. Tubs of luscious berries crowd market tables. A string quartet roams the market, serenading the crowd with folk music and bluegrass tunes. Wrinkled padrón and shishito peppers are piled precariously into baskets. Bins of Red Kuri pumpkins signal that fall may be just around the bend. Market goers, hands curled around basket handles, stroll from one stand to the next and peruse the offerings while giggling among themselves and chatting with the vendors. And, tucked into a corner of the market, long tables and chairs are set-up with menus printed on heavy craft paper. Jam jars, mismatched coffee mugs, jugs of water, and wildflowers in mason jars line the tables. And in the interest of ecology—and a more festive, colorful table—event planners asked diners bring their own plates and flatware.

Along with Dhillon and Koebel, this collaborative feast relied on the Westside Market producers themselves and other unique local purveyors. Barry Jackson, the owner and winemaker of Equinox Champenoise, kicked off the celebration by mixing mimosas for the guests who numbered just over fifty. Made just blocks from where we sat, Jackson employs the traditional French méthode champenoise to give his sparkling libation a toasty, aromatic quality. “More flavor results from the contact with the yeast,” Jackson explains.

Roland Konicke, of Uncie Ro’s Pizza, manned his wood-fired oven which was used to cook most of the meal. Konicke stuffed
high-protein dough with scrambled eggs, Harley Farms chevre,
wilted greens, and house-ground fennel-molasses sausage with a touch of El Salchichero’s magic in it, and baked it at a high temperature until it bore his signature charred crust to make the hearty roulades that were served about mid-way through the meal.

Fiesta Farms delivered fresh eggs; Condor’s Hope Winery poured their rosé; Lulu Carpenter’s Coffee lined the tables with carafes of steaming artisan-roasted coffee; H&H Fresh Fish provided local king salmon; and Happy Boy, Route 1, Live Earth, Everett, New Natives, Twin Girl, Rainbow Orchard, and Companion Bakeshop all came together to make this meal incredibly seasonal, fresh, and unique.

4Along with the Equinox mimosas, breakfast began with heaping bowls of fresh fruit. Blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe cubes, and raspberries were macerated in a splash of sparkling wine with whole vanilla beans and magnificently garnished with fresh lavender sprigs and bachelor button florets.

The feast continued as Nicki Zahm, Director of the Foodshed Project, made her way around the tables with a heavy wooden board piled high with salty-caramel sticky buns that were slathered with house-made raw honey butter.

Wood-fire roasted salmon filets were served with a pool of persillade—think pesto but with parsley instead of basil—on one side and a wild mushroom-tarragon reduction on the other. Perfectly poached eggs sat astride wilted collard greens, topped with a vibrant nasturtium and drizzled with Meyer lemon juice and flaxseed oil. And Koebel cut his house-cured bacon by hand so that no two pieces were alike.

From start to finish the breakfast was a parade of delectable dishes that looked as exquisite as they tasted. Some people might eat at box-restaurants because they know what to expect. It’s predictable and it’s uniform. A dish at a chain restaurant in one city should look exactly the same as the same dish at the same restaurant in another city. That’s the point, right? But people who eat food that is hand-cut, hand-rolled, and handmade expect and really relish variations. Food made by hand is strikingly irregular. Gorgeously asymmetrical.

51Because the goal of the pop-up was not just to wine and dine guests with seasonal goods, towards the end of the breakfast Dhillon and Koebel spoke to the group about the benefits of local, fresh foods and urged people to make informed food choices. Then they opened up the floor for comments and moderated a round-table discussion about the event. Some people had never attended a pop-up event before, others were veterans. Some people frequented farmers’ markets weekly for their fruits and vegetables, many didn’t. I was surprised by the show of hands when that question was posed. Koebel wasn’t. He said that that was about par: only about a third of the group regularly shopped at their farmers’ market. But, he said, it begins with awareness and education.

6In that vein, Local FATT gave t-shirts to the kids that attended. My boys were thrilled and immediately pulled the wheat grass-colored shirts over the ones they were already wearing. When we left the breakfast and headed to a school pool party, they continued to sport the shirts. I overheard them telling their classmates about their morning culinary adventure.

I know that my kids aren’t completely typical. We tour our CSA farm annually; we visit organic dairies; we procure meat from our friends who hunt; we shop at farmers’ markets regularly. But I was so proud when I asked my 10-year-old what the term ‘local food system’ meant to him and he answered with knowledge, passion, and intelligence. “Supporting local food systems means that we eat food that grows know, in our own community. When you cook with local food—and other people like it—they’ll be more likely to buy it.” Well said. I think Dhillon and Koebel would be proud, too.

Abalone: Local, delectable, and not as daunting as I previously imagined

This piece just hit the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Click to read it there.
Written and Photographed by Camilla M. Mann
Abalone_CFor the abalone, its journey from native currency to disdained export to ocean delicacy has been fraught with derision, then frenzy. From the 1800s to the early 20th century, abalone meat was exported to China and Japan and its shells sent to Europe to be used in intricate inlays. There was no American market for abalone meat.

Then “Pop” Ernest Doelter taught American diners how to eat abalone. He pounded the abalone into steaks for his restaurant on the Monterey wharf and served them at the 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco. With that exposure, abalone’s domestic popularity soared, bringing the edible gastropod to the brink of extinction.

Abalone_ClNow, with commercial abalone fishing completely banned in California and sport abalone divers saddled with strict regulations, commercial abalone farming is taking off. And abalone is making a comeback, appearing on the menus of some of our area’s finest restaurants.

I recently had the opportunity to shuck it, pound it, cook it, and plate it under the tutelage of Executive Chef Justin Cogley during his “Monterey Bay Abalone” class.

Each month enthusiasts can attend culinary classes in the kitchen of Aubergine restaurant at L’Auberge hotel in Carmel. Cogley leads the series of savory classes, while Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza teaches the sweets. Previous offerings have included: The Mystery of Old World Grains; Plate Like a Professional; and Working with Raw Fish and Sake. This fall they offer: Adventures in Appetizers; Curds and Creams; and Savory Sauces - The Next Level. If my class was any indication, people come from far and wide to attend these two-hour culinary adventures.

Abalone_Class-2While Cogley introduced himself to us newbies—there were more than a few class regulars—he offered us flutes of cava as well as still and sparkling water. Then we tied on aprons, took our places at a cutting board, and went right to work.

We shelled Tiger’s Eye beans, sliced kernels of fresh corn from the cobs and diced onions. We sampled oyster leaves—a salty variety of cress that grows near the sea—and fondled Turkish towel seaweed.

Then Cogley talked to us about the Monterey Abalone Company. Here on the Monterey Bay, we are fortunate to have farmers whose operating philosophy is to duplicate the abalone’s natural environment as closely as possible. Trevor Fay and Art Seavey, co-owners of the Monterey Abalone Company, are hands-on in every phase of the cultivation and harvest. And their efforts have helped put farmed abalone on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Best Choice list.

Aubergine just might be one of their largest customers, ordering between 200 and 300 abalone per week. At a year old, abalone are about the size of your thumbnail. Three years later, after feeding on fresh, hand- harvested giant kelp, abalone grow to about 3 inches across. That’s the ideal size, according to Cogley, any bigger and cost becomes an issue for the restaurants—and for the diners.
While our corn-bean sauce simmered on the stove, we began to work on our abalone. Here are the five easy steps...

Abalone_Class-4Step One: Shuck
Cogley demonstrated, in one smooth motion, how to separate the mollusk from its shell. Our efforts weren’t quite as graceful, but we ended up with a stack of shells and a dozen abalone. So, I’d call that a success.

Step Two: Clean and Pound
We didn’t actually clean the abalone, Julian did that for us, but he did demonstrate how to pound them and we eagerly gave that a try after Cogley made the distinction between the ‘presentation side’ and the ‘other side.’ We pounded the other side with the spiked side of the mallet. Forty-five strikes was what one of my classmates counted during the demonstration. Then we flipped the abalone over, covered it with a towel, and pounded it again with the smooth side. Another forty-five times? We weren’t counting. We just pounded.

Step Three: Sous Vide
At that point, our abalone were vacuum-sealed for us to take home and we cooked abalone that Cogley and his crew had already prepped for final cooking. When I write ‘prepped for final cooking’, I mean they were cooked sous vide ahead of time. Sous vide is French for ‘under vacuum’ and describes a method of cooking in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches at precisely controlled temperatures. In this case, the abalone were sous vide’d at 140° F for 30 minutes prior to the final cooking.

Abalone_Class-5Step Four: Pan-Fry
We heated unsalted butter in a pan and quickly pan-fried our abalone to give them a nice golden color. It only took about a minute on each side.

Step Five: Plate
We spooned a bed of corn and Tiger’s Eye beans onto the plate, laid our abalone on top, and garnished it with some sea lettuce, sea grass, oyster leaves and a sprinkling of salt. Cogley poured us each a glass of chilled Grüner Veltliner that paired deliciously with our abalone creations. No surprise there, he is an expert.

I did have to invoke some serious superhero skills for this assignment, juggling a camera, a notepad, and a pen, all while wielding a knife, a mallet, and a variety of other utensils. What a fun experience!

I took my pounded abalone home and, as Cogley instructed for those of us who don’t have a sous vide machine at home, steamed the abalone over the lowest heat possible. I drizzled the abalone every hour to keep it moist and I did this for five hours. Needless to say, this didn’t make it to the dinner table on time, but it ended up being a late-night treat for my husband. I thought my sons would complain that they didn’t get to try any, but they were content with the abalone shells I brought home for them.

Now I’m inspired to get over to the commercial wharf, pick up some abalone from the Monterey Abalone Company, maybe finagle a tour, and give this recipe another whirl. Cooking abalone is not as daunting as I previously imagined...thanks to the fabulous guidance of Chef Cogley and the staff at Aubergine

Monday, August 13, 2012

Holman Ranch Releases the Pop-Up Menu

I wrote a piece about the menu for Edible Monterey Bay's 5th pop-up event which will be hosted at Holman Ranch at the end of this month. Click here to read it on their blog.

Mouthwatering: Holman Ranch releases the menu for its upcoming pop-up vineyard-to-table dinner
Written by Camilla M. Mann
Photos courtesy of Holman Ranch

hr_vines_As if the chance to sip Holman Ranch’s delicious wines while dining al fresco next to its gorgeous vineyards were not temptation enough, the winery has just released an irresistible menu for its pop-up dinner with Edible Monterey Bay on Tuesday Aug. 28.

The event will benefit the Food Bank for Monterey County, and a limited number of tickets are still available.

chard_heroWe don’t want to give away too much, but the series of courses planned by Chef Terry Teplitzky of Marina’s Wild Thyme Deli & Café and Michael’s Catering is full of innovative tastes and textures—all prepared with local organic produce at its seasonal peak of flavor.

Spicy lamb sliders, goat cheese and fig tartlets, smoked salmon and artichokes are among the ingredients that will go into the passed hors d’oeuvres that will start the evening—along with Holman’s 2011 Pinot Gris and 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir.

The seated family-style dinner will pair Holman’s 2010 Chardonnay and 2010 Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir with seared diver scallops with cauliflower puree and currant, caper and almond brown butter; crispy sweetbreads with fava beans and mushrooms; and roasted free-range chicken with roasted grapes and applewood-smoked bacon.

What’s more, the sides and salads, made with produce from Serendipity Farms and other local purveyors, could steal the show: Expect a salad of roasted beets, ricotta salata and pea shoots, root vegetable croquettes and a spinach timbale, among other dishes.

Chef Teplitzky has earned many accolades for Michael’s Catering and Wild Thyme Deli, including Monterey Weekly’s “Best Caterer” in 2009, 2010 and 2011; “Best New Business” from the Monterey County Chamber of Commerce in 2001; and “Chef of the Year” from the American Culinary Association in 1993.
100_9895No stranger to philanthropy, Chef Teplitzky has a long record of community service, including his leadership role with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s popular Cooking for Solutions events, as well as having served as head chef for the annual Meals On Wheels dinner event, among other nonprofit associations. A portion of the proceeds of Holman’s dinner will go to the Food Bank for Monterey County, the largest supplier of emergency food to those in need in Monterey County.

This event is the fifth in Edible Monterey Bay’s series of pop-up supper clubs. Given that most have sold out, we recommend that if you plan to attend, you click on the PayPal button below to purchase your tickets now. Or you may also make reservations or learn more about the dinner or a rare chance to stay overnight at historic Holman Ranch by calling 831.659.2640 or emailing

You definitely don’t want to miss out on this dinner!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Contributor Bio

I had to write a bio this morning. Why is it always so hard to write about me?! Here's what I came up with...

Camilla M. Mann, Contributing Writer

Food writing wasn’t a path on which Camilla M. Mann thought she would find herself, but when the opportunity presented itself, she thought: why not? Sharing culinary adventures with her pen and her lens seemed the perfect marriage of her passions: food, adventures, photography, and writing.

With the ink on her diploma for history and philosophy from The University of California at Berkeley still damp, Mann took a job as an au pair in Italy – because she’d always wanted to live there and because she wanted to let her LSAT scores expire without telling her parents that she had changed her mind about law school. She lived in Rome for a year and ended up cooking for the family six days a week. That meant that she shopped at local markets daily, talked to the growers, and gathered recipes from whoever would talk to her. She grew into a fearless cook, but one who insists on the freshest, highest-quality foods around.

 When she came back to California, she had a parade of jobs, including running a stock photography agency for a local wildlife photographer, editing test assessments, working as a divemaster for SCUBA certification classes, teaching stroller fitness classes when her boys were small enough to sit in a stroller, and heading up the alumni relations and annual fund at her high school alma mater. But through all of that, photography and writing were constants. She penned articles about marine conservation and dive travel; she wrote columns about exercise; she drafted applications for grants; and she recorded recipes she’d created on a kitchen blog.

Mann lives with her husband and two sons in Monterey. They frequent local farmers’ markets, picking up unusual fruits and vegetables for a culinary challenge; they belong to a CSA to support a local farm and eat seasonally; and they are currently cooking their way through all of the countries around the world on a cooking-around-the-world adventure.

Writing for Edible Monterey Bay has afforded Mann the opportunity to delve behind the scenes of their local foodshed, to dine on the creations of some local culinary geniuses, and to meet like-minded foodies at fabulous pop-up events around the Monterey Bay. Best. Job. Ever.

Photography Honorable Mention: Pike Place Market

Editors at Open Places, formerly trazzler, gave this shot an honorable mention in their July 25, 2012 photo contest. From the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.

Photography Honorable Mention: Red Dog Saloon

Editors at Open Places, formerly trazzler, gave this shot an honorable mention in their July 25, 2012 photo contest. From the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, Alaska.