Tuesday, September 25, 2012

¡Buen Provecho! It's a Latin Feast with Edible Monterey Bay

¡Buen Provecho! Eat and Drink at Stone Creek Kitchen’s Latin Feast with Edible Monterey Bay by Camilla M. Mann
This just hit the Edible Monterey Bay blog:
October's pop-up event at Stone Creek Kitchen.
Photos by Keana Parker
Go ahead and add “pop-up hosts” to the lengthy list of Kristina Scrivani and Linda Hanger’s culinary accomplishments. Their Stone Creek Kitchen will host Edible Monterey Bay’s October 26th Pop-up Supper Club—a spicy and creative Latin feast that is sure to sell out fast, as seating is extremely limited.
Much like Stone Creek’s popular monthly Friday Night Dinners, this meal will seat guests in a chef’s table arrangement, circling Scrivani in her beautiful teaching kitchen as she prepares a spectacular meal. Think casual and exciting dinner party—but with a professional chef at the stove.
The $75 prix fixe menu will draw on the Monterey Bay’s local autumn bounty, beginning with Petite Sweet Corn Tamales and Chorizo-Stuffed Calamari. From there, Scrivani will serve up Sweet Potato Poblano Chili Rellenos and Wood-Grilled Steak bathed in Chili Garlic. And if you still have room, you’ll have a chance to indulge in Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Carmel-filled Shortbread Cookies.

“Everything on the menu is in perfect season right now—the corn, the chilies, the sweet potato, the pumpkin…the calamari!” says Scrivani.

Scrivani’s journey to Stone Creek Kitchen began on her family’s farm where inspiration—in the form of seasonal produce—sprung up all around her. Her culinary creations were not rooted in being gourmet; instead, they were about feeding family and friends something fresh, wholesome, and delicious. After eating, drinking, and cooking her way around the world, Kristina worked as a personal chef before landing at Whole Foods Market as the marketing and community relations team leader. For twelve years, Kristina shared the season’s harvest on a much larger scale, bringing inventive cooking classes to her local community in Whole Foods Market’s Salud! kitchen.
Hangar came to Stone Creek Kitchen via the world of publishing and was named one of the “50 Top Women in Book Publishing” by BOOK Business Magazine in 2009. After serving as chief executive at two different publishing houses, she welcomed this new chapter of her life, embracing the challenges of mastering a new industry. With a flair for the dramatic—you’ll have to ask her about the bunny cake she made when she was twelve-years-old—Linda is the consummate hostess. Her credo is simple: Make your guests feel welcome and special…and mix up some great cocktails while you’re at it.

When Scrivani and Hanger opened Stone Creek last summer, they fashioned a unique destination for people who like to eat, drink, and cook. They had envisioned creating a place that would immediately pop into your mind whenever you needed to pick up anything for your dining room or kitchen. They succeeded. Whether you need fresh, prepared food, a sweet tidbit, a specialty dry good for your pantry, or a new kitchen tool, Stone Creek Kitchen fits the bill. Scrivani and Hangar also made cooking classes and events like the Friday Night Dinners a key part of the mix, and one year later they’re already a beloved part of the Monterey food scene.

Eat. Drink. Cook. These words repeat around the arched entrance to the kitchen at Stone Creek Kitchen. Other such sentiments appear, in colorful chalk or paint, all around the store. My personal favorite stands sentry above a rack of reasonably priced bottles from around the world: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.”

These wines will be available for purchase by supper club participants; as the Spaniards do, we offer cheers to those of you who will be lucky enough to attend: ¡Buen provecho!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Edible Events {Edible Monterey Bay, Fall 2012}

 A Pop-Up Brunch and Hike at Ventana Inn & Spa
Photo and Story by Camilla M. Mann

Edible Monterey Bay’s third pop-up brought me to the Ventana Inn and Spa for a hike and a brunch. Gathering in front of The Restaurant at Ventana, our group of culinary adventurers chatted amicably before heading out, led by long-time Big Sur resident and owner of Big Sur Guides. Part naturalist and part local historian, Stephen Copeland regaled us with stories of Hatfield and McCoy-style feuds between Big Sur landowners and reminisced about Lolly Fassett who started the Nepenthe Restaurant after nurturing the local community nightly with her roasted chicken and stuffing.

As we wound along the trails, Copeland discussed how younger redwood trees create tight rings around their parents. He explained how the Native Americans viewed the redwood rings as sacred, circles of life. At one point, our group stood in the center of one of these circles. Surrounded by sixteen giants, we inhaled the citrusy scent from the duff beneath our shoes, listening to the energetic chirps of the wood sparrow.

With stomachs rumbling, Kara Stout, Ventana’s Food and Beverage Head, guided us to an arbor embraced by gnarled honeysuckle vines whose heady scent is stronger than you would expect from such wiry blossoms.

First task: select one of their unique libations. There was the de rigueur bellini and ubiquitous mimosa, but it was the more innovative offerings that intrigued me. I vacillated between the St. Germain Royal – Roederer Brut with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and a lime wheel – and the Hair of the Dog Punsch – lemon-infused Zaya rum with spiced black tea. 

I opted for the latter; punsch – with its seemingly errant ‘s’ –  is not actually a typo. It derives from a northern European spelling of this cocktail that is served hot. Though I was initially reluctant to order it because rum cocktails are notoriously syrupy, the name was irresistible. The concoction was spicy and slightly bitter, a vivid contrast to the chilled, effervescent St. Germain that I sampled by sneaking a sip from my friend’s champagne flute.

Clinking our glasses amid celebratory toasts, we considered the entrée offerings. Chef Truman Jones had fashioned a generous menu with everything from chicken enchiladas to a classic Caesar salad and homemade granola to a Big Sur burger.

Eggs benedict is my favorite, so the choice was simple. Toasted English muffins were topped with steamed spinach and pillows of perfectly poached eggs. The applewood smoked pork loin was crispy enough to lend texture to the mouthfeel yet soft enough to complement the silky eggs. And I was grateful that the hollandaise sauce added lemony flavor without drowning the dish.

While I didn’t taste any of the other entrées, our table lined with empty plates indicate that all were delectable.

Table chatter ran the gamut from local food events to recipes or culinary processes. We imagined how we could use the sprigs of California sage that Copeland had plucked for us. I’m considering a roasted chicken with stuffing in Lolly Fassett’s honor. Leeks, celery, rye bread, California sage, and lots of butter.

Edible Notables {Edible Monterey Bay, Fall 2012}

Local Food on Foot: Two Unexpectedly Intriguing and Delicious Adventures
Photos and Story by Camilla M. Mann, July 2012

Some people are tour people, relying on a resident expert to cart them from one location to the next while pointing out spots of interest along the way. I am not a tour person. In fact, it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to characterize myself as tour-averse. When I travel, I typically rent a house with a kitchen, frequent neighborhood grocers, seek out farmers’ markets, stop at roadside fruit stands, cook with local produce, and steer clear of anything that could possibly be called a tour.

Before three weeks ago, I didn’t know what a food tour was. Now, I’ve been on two of the three food tours offered around the Monterey Bay: the Santa Cruz Food Tour, run by Brion Sprinsock and Kristine Albrecht, and the Carmel Food Tour, led by Staci Giovino. I have to admit – I’m smitten. Food tours offer a culinary and cultural adventure, guiding locals and visitors alike to exceptional eateries and introducing them to artisan foodsmiths.

Searching for unique outing for my family, I stumbled across the Santa Cruz Food Tour. Walking, eating, drinking. Three of our favorites. I expected an almost two-mile walk and insider information about the stops we were making. I didn’t expect lessons in California history and Victorian architecture and – even after living in this area for almost three decades – to place some new-to-me culinary gems on my food-radar. It was the same with the Carmel Food Tour that I took with a friend a couple of weeks later. We followed our guide through geranium-scented passageways that I had never seen much less explored. Collectively my friend and I have lived here for forty years; and at almost every stop, our whispers began with “Wow, I’ve never….”

Brion Sprinsock started the Santa Cruz Food Tour – and his new Capitola Food Tour – because the tours dovetail his interest in local history and architecture with his desire to shine the spotlight on some of the locals who serve up something exceptional. Staci Giovino fell into culinary tourism via interior design. She shared that her career in designing commercial spaces was about creating an experience. Food tours are much the same. Both Brion and Staci’s passions and knowledge come through in their tours. Though the tours were very different, each successfully captured the personality of its city.

It’s difficult to distill the almost seven hours I spent on the food tours - three and a half hours in Santa Cruz and three hours in Carmel - into a few paragraphs. I’d love to delve into why the Mission Hill tunnel, a 900-foot long narrow gauge railroad tunnel, was built by immigrants from Cornwall versus the Chinese laborers who laid a majority of the lines in California. I would recount the tale Brion wove about Sebastian Vizcaino discovering Monterey Bay. I could detail how the dairy industry shaped downtown Carmel and describe, as Staci explained, how a milk shrine worked. But as I’m short of space, I’ll give you a few tasty tidbits and share a bunch of photos. Here’s my journey to food tour-junkie through a series of “I’ve never…”

…eaten peppercorn ice cream. The Penny Ice Creamery makes small batches of ice cream completely from scratch, in-house everyday. Their flavors change with the seasons, featuring locally farmed and organic ingredients. I love that they utilize a professional forager. As seasons shift, they create ice creams with what can be readily found on a day-hike. We missed their candy cap mushroom by a month. Next year!

…known that ‘cheddar’ can be a verb. To cheddar. Cheddaring is the process of cutting, stacking, and expressing the whey from curds to temper them into a denser, more cohesive mass. Kurt Torrey, of the Cheese Shop, has a motto I can get behind: "Eat cheese. Drink wine. Live life happy!" We ate cheeses from three continents. We sampled a cheddar from the English village of Cheddar; an Argentinean Reggianito, whose name is the Spanish diminutive of ‘Reggiano’, a granular cows' milk cheese from Italian immigrants who wished to make a cheese reminiscent of their native Parmigiano but in smaller wheels; and a hand-crafted raw milk Swiss ‘Junipero’, named for Father Serra, out of the family-run Schoch Dairy in Salinas. The Schochs also make an East of Edam in homage to Salinas-born author John Steinbeck.

...shot olive oil. To really taste the oils, Brion explained – and demonstrated – you should shoot the oil to the back of your throat. Like a shot. It was a proud moment for me to watch my 8 and 10-year-old foodies-in-training throwing back shots of olive oils, sipping on vinegars, and commenting on what they tasted and how they would use them. At both the True Olive Connection, in Santa Cruz, and the Bountiful Basket, in Carmel, we tried a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The oils ranged from light and buttery to leafy and peppery and everything in between; the vinegars ran from a traditional 18-year-old balsamic vinegar to 6-year-old flavored balsamics such as pomegranate, ripe peach, dark chocolate, espresso, and blueberry.

…known how salumi – Italian-style cured meat products – is made. Salumi has at its root ‘sal’, Latin for salt, and is predominantly made from pork. While we sipped a big Tuscan red, Grant Dobbie, Salumeria Luca’s manager, explained the process of making salami and mortadella: grind the meat, season and salt, then stuff into a casing. From there, it might be baked or steamed under pressure. I learned the difference between speck, which comes specifically from the Alto Adige region in Italy, and prosciutto. While both speck and prosciutto are salt-cured hind-quarters of the pig, only speck is smoked.

On both tours, the groups were small and intimate. Ages varied, from elementary school-aged to retirees, and we hailed from all over the country, from having traveled less than 40 miles to traveling more than 3000 miles to get there. The common thread: we were ready for an off-the-beaten-path adventure punctuated with delicious foods and interesting libations. So, if that’s what you’re after, you just might be a food tour person. I discovered that I am.

Santa Cruz Food Tour: (800) 838-3006 santacruzfoodtour.com
Carmel Food Tours: (800) 979-3370 carmelfoodtour.com

Monday, September 3, 2012

La Crème de la Crème

This was just posted to the Edible Monterey Bay blog.

All of Edible Monterey Bay’s pop-up events have captured the personality of the hosts—from the relaxed, laid-back feel of Carmel Valley’s Lokal to the bustling mélange of colorful dishes at Santa Cruz’s Charlie Hong Kong and from the almost celestial serenity above the clouds at Ventana Inn & Spa to the lively farm-to-table breakfast at the Westside farmers’ market in Santa Cruz. I cannot wait to see what La Crème has in store for us at their pop-up event with Edible Monterey Bay Wednesday, Sept. 26.

What we do know is the location—Casa de la Crème, the catering company’s new Pacific Grove event venue and the location of its soon-to-open espresso, wine and tapas bar, Crema. We also know the menu, and it looks divine: The meal will begin with a persimmon and arugula salad, followed by seared California white seabass, grilled duck with fig sausage and braised lamb shank. In case you have any room left, dessert will be a fig and raspberry crostata with elderflower ice cream and toasted almond crunch. We’ll keep the details of the preparation of the courses a surprise, but you can count on all of them to be imaginative.

La Crème owner Tamie Aceves is a vivacious event planner extraordinaire who has more than twelve years of experience managing both intimate and large-scale events. Weddings that she orchestrated have appeared in a bevy of bridal magazine, including Conde Nast’s Brides Northern California, The Knot, and Wedding Wire.

Pair her personality with the culinary creativity and integrity of Chef Jon Moser and the event is sure to be executed with great flair for excellence. La crème de la crème. The best of the best.

Chef Jon’s experience runs the gamut from stints as a ship’s cook to time in some of the country’s finest restaurants, including Chez Panisse, Manresa and even French Laundry. Inspired by local ingredients, his menus can include traditional favorites as well as innovative specialties. His choices always reflect his belief that food needs to be prepared the right way, using the best possible ingredients, presented beautifully and served with panache. But most importantly, it must be delicious.

I had the opportunity to preview the magic that Aceves and Chef Jon have created and, if the lunch I attended was any indication, Edible Monterey Bay pop-up diners are in for a real treat!

Chef Jon presented a roasted heirloom tomato tart topped with shavings of Bellwether Farms San Andreas cheese and some fresh mache. Mache has been cultivated in France since the 17th century, but in California the sweet but nutty leaves are relatively new. Surrounding the tart were ribbons of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Next up: chicken breast from Petaluma Farms atop a risotto verde – a risotto made with fresh spinach and seasonal herbs.

When making risotto, Chef Jon opts for carnaroli, a medium-grain rice grown in the Vercelli province of northern Italy. While carnaroli is the traditional choice for making risotto, most chefs now use arborio rice. When I asked Chef Jon why he opts for carnaroli rice, he answered, simply, that it was about the quality. “Carnaroli retains its shape while still being creamy.”

Adding color and sweetness to the risotto was a rainbow of baby carrots from Faurot Ranch in Watsonville. Chef Jon orders produce consolidated by Greenleaf Produce to reduce driving trips from his vendors. He also tries to use products that are grown and produced in the local area to further reduce his carbon footprint. He explained his standing order with Greenleaf to me this way: “I want whatever is most fresh, in season, and sourced from Monterey County, whenever possible.”

La Crème’s event venue, Casa de la Crème, is housed in a two-story Victorian and is adorned with details that lend elegance without diminishing its inviting, comfortable appeal. Distressed doors serve as a partition in the cozy Peacock Room that overlooks the street. Wrought iron sconces hang on whimsically finished walls. And a garden where they grow their garnishes is guarded by a giant fork and spoon. One of my favorite surprising details: a bouquet of pickling jars turned into a modern chandelier of sorts.

By November, La Crème expects to open Crema, its on-site wine and tapas bar; Crema could begin offering espresso as early as mid-September.

La Crème’s pop-up Edible Monterey Bay on Sept. 26 will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Casa de la Crème, 481 Lighthouse Ave. in Pacific Grove. Tickets will be $75.

Tomato Taste-Off: the FoodShed Project's September Focus

This was just posted to the Edible Monterey Bay's blog. Click here to read it there.

Tomato Taste-Off: September´s FoodShed Focus 
Written by Camilla M. Mann    

To-MAY-to or To-MAH-to? Pronunciation doesn't really matter when it comes to this nutritious, summery fruit. It’s all about what you do with it. Some might argue that it’s a vegetable; it’s not. A tomato is a luscious and versatile fruit that should be celebrated at its sun-kissed best. And you’ll have the opportunity to do just that at two Foodshed Project events coming up this Wednesday Sept. 5 and Friday Sept. 7.

This summer, the Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market (SCCFM) launched an educational series that focuses on the connections between farmers, food artisans, and the community that make up our local foodshed: the FoodShed Project. A foodshed can be defined in a variety of ways. But, to put it simply, a foodshed includes where a food is produced, where it is consumed, and everything in between—the land on which it grows, the route it travels to get to market shelves, the tables on which it’s served, how it’s being prepared and presented, and the waste that is produced.

From its inception in 1990, the SCCFM has had the goal of providing educational programs within the community. Now, that plan is coming to fruition with a grant funded by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program and in a partnership with the Ecological Farming Association.

The FoodShed Project series kicked off in June and continues through October—on the first Wednesday of each month. All of the FoodShed Project events are free and are typically hosted at the Downtown Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market. This month, in addition to the first Wednesday event, there is a special, second event—La Comida Del Pueblo de Watsonville—which will be held at the Watsonville Farmers’ Market on Friday, September 7th.

The FoodShed Project’s monthly events shine the spotlight on seasonal food items, showcasing them with tastings, talks, music, cooking demonstrations, and activities for the entire family. Food, What?! youths have been hired to lead scavenger hunts and lend helping hands during the mini cooking classes and demonstrations at each event. The FoodShed Project hopes to grow their partnership with Food, What?! and nurture the local agriculture industry by funneling young, food-justice leaders into local agriculture-related jobs in the coming years.

The FoodShed Project’s first September event—Tomato Taste-Off—is on Wednesday, September 5, from 3-5pm, at the Downtown Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market. The second event—La Comida Del Pueblo de Watsonville—follows just two days later. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the sun-kissed flavors and regional history of the tomato. On Wednesday, you’ll learn about the famous dry farm tomato from the pioneers at Molino Creek. You can make googly eyes with heirlooms of every size, shape, and shade while listening to Happy Boy Farms talk about growing practices and flavor. Witness Joseph Schultz from India Jose work his magic with this summery fruit.This month, the tomato is the FoodShed Project’s guest of honor. The English word ‘tomato’ comes from the Spanish word tomate, which derived from the Aztec word tomatl. Native to western South America and Central America, the Spanish explorer Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornaments, but not eaten. More than likely the first tomato varieties to reach Europe were yellow; in Spain and Italy tomatoes were known as pomi d’oro, literally ‘apples of gold’. Italians were the first culture to embrace and cultivate the tomato outside of South America.

On Friday, September 7, from 4-6pm, JCG Farm will be dishing out growing tips while Lidia Mendez Juarez will whip up some of her fabulous tomato creations. At both FoodShed Project events, you’ll be able to follow Food, What?! on an educational, family-friendly scavenger hunt after the presentations. It’s free, fun, and informative.

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate the tomato with the FoodShed Project!

Peaches in August
Photo Courtesy of the FoodShed Project

To get a picture of the kind of activities that are in store at this week’s Tomato Taste-off, read on for the juicy details of happened at last month’s Peach Partay.

About 70 market-goers gathered, sitting on hay bales, while Frog Hollow Farm peach expert Jon Harvey held up the fallen limb of a peach tree, heavy under the weight of ripe, juice-filled fruit. Harvey pointed out the place in the wood where the new growth began and explained how the fruit-bearing part of the tree is the previous year’s growth.

Following the Frog Hollow Farm’s presentation, Kendra, Zach and Ana of the Penny Ice Creamery stepped forward and, with the assistance of local food justice leaders from the Santa Cruz based organization ‘Food, What?!’, launched into a mix of story-telling, ice cream making and peach grilling.

Each audience member received an ice cream making kit. Small bags of ice cream mixture nestled inside larger bags full of ice and, gripped tightly in the hands of customers young and old, the sounds of clinking ice cubes filled the air. Participants smiled with the excitement of this do-it-yourself demonstration while they learned about where the ingredients came from and what is possible in their own homes.

Following the presentations, the band sounded, a face painter set up shop, and mural making continued at the art table. The ‘Food, What?!’ youth leaders led interested participants on a stone fruit hunt around the market. With a free scoop of ice cream from the Penny for those who completed the hunt, participants learned foodshed facts: a large peach contains 3 grams of fiber, is a good source of vitamins A and C, and is rich in many vital minerals such as potassium, fluoride and iron.

Peach juice will dribble down your chin, make you smile, and a peach is large enough to share. And since peaches are on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of fruits and vegetables, you should always purchase organic due to high pesticide residues in the conventionally grown fruit.

For more information about the FoodShed Project, which is directed by Nicki Zahm, please go to: www.santacruzfarmersmarket.org.