Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Coffee-Braised Lamb Shanks {Edible Monterey Bay}

This recipe, without the photo, accompanied by DIY: Bean to Cup article in the Winter 2013 issue of Edible Monterey Bay. Click to see it online: here.

Serves 8

Inspired by my coffee roasting adventures, I decided to create a coffee-based entrée, braising lamb shanks in an earthy mixture of coffee, beer and the soaking liquid from dried mushrooms.

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 8 3⁄4 to 1 pound lamb shanks
  • White whole wheat flour or white flour mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cardamom for dredging
  • 2 cups coffee
  • 2 cups beer (I use a coffee stout)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon ginger syrup
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup dried shitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • Sea salt, freshly ground
  • Pepper, freshly ground

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy, large Dutch oven over medium- high heat. Add sliced onions and leeks and sauté until brown.

Coat lamb shanks with flour and cardamom. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy, large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add lamb shanks to skillet and cook until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes per batch.

Using tongs, transfer lamb shanks to plate. Add 2 cups of coffee to same skillet and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour into Dutch oven with onion-leek mixture. Add remaining 2 cups of beer, the soaking liquid from the shitake mushrooms, the reconstituted shitake mushrooms cut into thick slices, honey and ginger syrup to Dutch oven. Bring to boil. Add lamb shanks, turning to coat with liquid.

Simmer for 1 hour. Add in the fresh oyster and shitake mushrooms.

Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is almost tender, turning lamb shanks occasionally, approximately 1 more hour. Uncover Dutch oven and boil until liquid is reduced to sauce consistency, stirring and turning lamb shanks occasionally, about 30 minutes. They should be falling-off-the-bone tender! Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, spoon the sauce over the shanks.

Changing Latitudes: Coffee Grows in Santa Barbara and, Someday, May Grow Here {Edible Monterey Bay}

Along with my article about coffee roasting in the Winter 2013 edition of Edible Monterey Bay, there's this piece about Jay Ruskey and his Good Land Organics. Click to read it online: here. It's the second piece down. Keep scrolling!

Changing Latitudes: Coffee Grows in Santa Barbara and, Someday, May Grow Here
by Camilla M. Mann

Jay Ruskey has created a sub-tropical haven of exotic crops at his ranch called Good Land Organics in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. With the warm, southern orientation of his Condor Ridge Ranch, Ruskey cultivates cherimoyas, dragon fruits, white sapotes and goji berries.

Nine years ago, he also began growing coffee, but he didn’t have high expectations.

“I was skeptical when I saw blossoms,” he says. “Berries followed. And suddenly we had mature red coffee cherries.”

Almost all of the world’s coffee grows between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and until Ruskey began his experiment together with Mark Gaskell of UC Santa Barbara’s Cooperative Extension, the northernmost place that anyone was growing coffee was some 19° latitude to the south. Since then, Ruskey has become the first American farmer outside of Hawaii to sell coffee.

Ruskey and Gaskell are evaluating all aspects of growing coffee in California and testing a dozen varieties of high-quality Arabica coffee plants. Among them is Geisha, an ancient Ethiopian bean prized as a single-origin coffee with a lightly floral aroma; coffee magnate Price Peterson, of Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama, personally transported the plants to Ruskey.

“As with wine, you can’t make a good wine with bad grapes, right? Well, you can’t make a good cup of coffee with inferior beans,” Ruskey says.

Coffee plants normally require moderately warm temperatures and humidity to flourish, and rely on a rainy season typical of the tropics to properly flower and pollinate. Hawaii is the only U.S. state that offers these kinds of conditions.

Still, Good Land’s coffee plants are adapting. Under the protective shade of Ruskey’s avocado trees, Ruskey’s coffee bushes operate on a different growing cycle, with their coffee cherries taking 12 months to mature—longer than anywhere else. Slower maturation means that the bean has more time to darken and develop. Dark red coffee cherries have the highest sugar level, which translates into a better cup of coffee—and indeed Good Land’s coffee has received excellent ratings. But the bushes are continuously producing new berries, and the long-term effects of this lack of a rest period for the plants are unknown.

And there are other challenges to growing a profitable local cup of coffee in California.

“One tree yields 6–7 pounds of ripe cherries, or about 1 pound of roasted coffee beans per year. That’s a lot of picking and processing for a small yield,” Ruskey says.

Still, the value of good coffee has increased—and is rising all the time.

Only a short time ago, Americans were content with unspecified coffee blends. Today, more discerning consumer palates have raised the bar for coffee—and the prices. The Geisha variety, for example, can sell for upwards of $100 per pound; Ruskey is currently selling his Caturra/Typica variety through Good Land’s website for $22 per 5-ounce bag, or about $70 per pound. (If that price isn’t too staggering, place your order and your locally grown coffee will be roasted-to-order.)

Farmers have tried over the years to grow coffee in California and, in fact, coffee was cultivated successfully near Santa Barbara in the 1870s. But coffee pioneers were hindered by the high cost of labor and low productivity of the plants in these temperate regions.

Today, considering the growing interest in specialty coffees and the current ardent appetite for locally grown produce, Ruskey is convinced of the viability of his project and would eventually like to become a coffee wholesaler.

He and Gaskell are organizing a Santa Barbara coffee growers association and are recruiting farmers in other parts of California to join them in their research.

Thus far, the northernmost grower to participate in the research farms in Morro Bay, but Ruskey considers thriving citrus and avocadoes to be a good indicator that a particular area could also support coffee plants. If you farm land where these trees thrive and you’d like to become a part of the coffee research trials, Ruskey would love to hear from you.


Bean to Cup: Coffee is getting a lot more local {Edible Monterey Bay}

My article about coffee roasting just came out in the Winter 2013 edition of Edible Monterey Bay. Click to read it online: here. It's the DIY column for the issue.

Bean to Cup: Coffee is getting a lot more local
by Camilla M. Mann

Until the late 19th century, people commonly roasted their own coffee beans. But eventually, home roasting was eclipsed by the convenience culture that pervades much of our society.

Given that there are only two elements to transforming raw green coffee beans into ready-to-grind coffee, I’m shocked that until this year I’d never met anyone who roasted his or her own beans at home.

That changed when a tip led me to Seven Bridges Cooperative in Santa Cruz. After witnessing their vast array of green coffee beans, home coffee roasting equipment and coffee books, it became clear that this art is enjoying a revival among local home brewers.

Seven Bridges’ Andrew Whitman offered to give me a coffee roasting lesson, demonstrating the process with a small hot-air roaster that reminded me of a tiny hot-air popcorn popper. Same idea. The two elements for roasting coffee beans: heat and agitation.

I have always gravitated toward a dark roast because that’s what I bought when I started drinking coffee—more to keep me awake than because I truly enjoyed the taste.

But it turns out that a dark roast homogenizes the flavor of the beans, muting their distinct flavors. On the other hand, a light- to-medium roast better retains the flavor profile of a particular bean cultivar.

Because the roast Andrew and I made was uneven, it afforded us the opportunity to taste the same bean, a Nicaraguan Segovia, at different stages of roasting. The lightest bean tasted nutty, like a hazelnut. The medium bean still had some nut, but verged on caramel—the delicate sweetness of a crème brulée. The dark bean tasted how I’ve always described coffee: astringent, potent and burnt.

Roasting is fun and can be as effortless or as complicated as you want to make it. The basic process is simple: take green coffee beans and roast them until they are brown. There are many ways to do it, from using specially designed appliances to simple pan-roasting, to repurposing a hot-air popcorn popper. At home, I went old school and used a skillet, but I’m thinking about requisitioning my son’s hot-air popper for a trial run.

First, you need green coffee beans. Seven Bridges Cooperative offers a multitude of beans that you can buy in bulk for between $7 and $9 per pound. All their beans—ranging from Bolivian Cenaproc to Papua New Guinean Enorga—are high-grade Arabica coffees and are certified fair trade and organic. Certain local, artisanal coffee roasters, like Davenport’s Alta Organic Coffee and Tea, also offer green beans; I purchased some green Guatemalan beans at Acme Coffee Roasting Co. in Seaside for $7 a pound. Good Land Organics of Goleta will also soon start selling its Central Coast-grown beans in green form.

If using a skillet, fill with just enough green beans to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer—no overlapping. Then, as the pan and beans heat, agitate them, flipping the beans as you would turn roasting potatoes.

Roasting time varies depending on the method. Convection roasting, using a dedicated home coffee roaster, might take 5–15 minutes, depending on your desired roast. Conduction roasting, using a skillet, might take as long as 20 minutes. To decide when your beans are done, Whitman says, use multiple senses. You can look at the color of the beans. You can listen to the beans—you’ll hear a first crack and, if you decide to roast them that long, a second crack. And you can smell them.

The lighter the roast, the less oil that has been released and burned. Also, the lighter the roast, the more caffeine that is retained.

Will I do this again?

Home roasting affords you the ultimate in quality control and freshness. It’s also quick and easy—I only set off the smoke alarm twice.

I will definitely be roasting my own beans from now on since the difference in flavor and freshness is palpable. Cost-wise, it’s also much more affordable than buying pre-roasted beans. (The last bag of beans I purchased at Peet’s cost me twice as much as the green beans I bought for roasting.)

When asked for his favorite method for brewing his home-roast, Whitman says French press. And he’s adamant on how to take it: Black. No milk. No sugar. That way, you can taste the nuances, he says.

He is right. I have never had a better cup of coffee.

Camilla M. Mann is a food writer, photographer, adventurer and passionate cook. She blogs at culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com and lives in Monterey.

Seven Bridges Cooperative • 325A River St., Santa Cruz 831.454.9665 • www.breworganic.com

edibleFEAST's Curated Thanksgiving Photo Challenge

After posting a photo challenge, edibleFEAST posted their pick of 11 favorite entries. Two of mine were selected. Woohoo.

Thank you to everyone in the #edibleFEAST community for sharing your Thanksgiving photos and tagging local farmers & producers!

Besides getting a delicious virtual tour of your dinner tables, the #ediblefeast photo challenge was part of an ongoing support effort of the #buylocal moment. It also gave our community an opportunity to get to know local artisans, farmers, bakers & shops in your area!

From delicious turkey meat from BN RANCH (Bolinas, CA) to a family feast at Cold Moon Farm (Jamaica, VT)…please enjoy the selected photos and enjoy your leftovers!

Thanks again to all who participated :)

Here's what they picked from my pictures, submitted via twitter...

@Edible_Feast Matzo ball soup with delicatas, carrots, chard from @foglinefarmer + Maristone herbs #ediblefeast

@Edible_Feast Paso Robles has become a font of great vineyards. Poured from Oblivion Cellars for our #EdibleFeast

Saturday, November 16, 2013

National Public Lands Day {Photo Essay}

Led by Shawn of the Burleson Consulting, Inc., we participated in a native seed collection hike for National Public Lands Day. Two and a half miles along trails that Jake and his buddies mountain bike weekly. We learned about different native plants, collected seeds, and enjoyed the beautiful autumn afternoon. Click over to our Maker Manns blog for the boys' accounts of our adventure. Here's what the 9-year-old had to say. And here's what the 11-year-old reported.

This was our route...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: Nick & Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab

This is one of the first books I've actively sought out to review. Truth be told, I was looking to get a review copy for my son. He's in 6th grade. He's an innovator. He's a thinker. And he's an avid reader, but he is not a fiction-reader. Though I often catch him reading by headlamp in the wee hours of the night, he doesn't care for fiction. "I don't like novels," he claims. His nose is constantly buried in non-fictional works and even science textbooks from our friend who teaches at a local high school.

So, I asked my contact at Quirk Bookswhen I saw the description of the book, if I could get a copy. He happily obliged, saying that a review from the target audience would be great. When the copy came, I told Riley that I wanted him to give this fictional book a shot. He did. And he read it in a single sitting. Then he read it again. And, then, he started reading it aloud to his brother. Needless to say, I'm thrilled that this book has opened up his eyes to the land of novels. He did try a few of the experiments, too.

Here's what he has to say...(I gave him some guiding questions.)

What did you enjoy about this book?
I enjoyed how the experiments tied in with the story. For example: Tesla leaned over the bottle rocket, the instructions said not to lean over the rocket. So something bad happened. I won't ruin it for you. You just have to read it. I also thought the characters in the book were unusual and made the book funny.

What have you read that is similar to this book?
I have never read anything like this book. It is now on the list of my favorite books. I have read experiment books but I have never read an experiment book with a story behind it.
Who was your favorite character? What did you appreciate about him/her?
I liked the character Uncle Newt. He made the book really funny. His singing, his actions, what I imagine he looks like - from the description in the book - are all funny. Hilarious, in fact.
Did you find this book a quick read? Why or why not?
I read this book fast to my opinion. Most novels I read halfway, get tired of, stop reading it, and a while later I might come back to read it. This novel I read right through to the end.

What were your concerns about this book?
I would really like to read the next book in the series. And I'm not sure I can wait until February!

Note: we did receive a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it. All opinions are 100% accurate and our own.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tales from the Trenches: Our Foxhound Urban Spy Adventure {Review}

It began as these things normally do: with an email from Living Social. After a flurry of emails and phone calls, with a few keystrokes and a couple of clicks, Pia and I purchased vouchers for Foxhound's Urban Adventures and presented them to Brian and Jake as Fathers' Day gifts. On that particular morning in June while they opened gifts from their boys, Brian and Jake had eerily parallel conversations with their bargain-loving wives while staring at the printed voucher: Good for one Urban Spy Adventure.

"What is this? Foxhound Urban Adventures?!"

I don't really know.

"But you bought it..."


"What does it entail?"

I don't know. But it looked like fun and it was a good deal.

"How does it look like fun? You don't even know what it is!"

Well it was a good deal! And we get to go to San Francisco.

"Oh, geez...."

And so the vouchers sat. And sat. And sat. Finally, as the expiration date approached, I pressed them to make a reservation. We picked a Saturday in October - less than a week before the vouchers expired - and took the last spots for the day. And, grudgingly, the guys put it on their calendars. "007" was scrawled on Brian's; "Spy School" was scribbled in Jake's.

Then Brian got a wild hair that we should make it an overnight trip. And, magically, stars aligned and child care fell into place. Thank goodness for grandparents and generous friends. So a hotel was booked, dinner plans made, and we headed up for a whirlwind twenty-four hours in the City.

Nursing a hang-over from a single cocktail the night before at Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen - I always forget that rum is verboten! - we showed up at Union Square and fanned out to find our Adventure Guide.

We were looking for a man with a blue suitcase...then we had to ask him a single question. I spotted the case and we dispatched Brian.

Do you know where the 39 steps are? 

And so began our Urban Spy Adventure, led by this man, Shannon Bruzelius, Foxhound's owner and founder. Imagine dead-drops and subterfuge. Think disguises and shoot-outs.

I'm not going to give away too many details of Foxhound Urban Adventure's operation. You really just need to experience it for yourself. I will simply tell you some tales from the trenches.

First, if you're a gear-hound, you get gear to use for the day. Lots of gear. A messenger bag full of gear. A laser tag gun with a scope. Walkie-talkies that have an impressive range. Rear-view sunglasses. And we used them all. You don't get to keep the gear, but you do get the hat as a reminder of the adventure.

Missions go something like this: there is a starting point, a designated pick-up, and a chosen drop-off. There are two teams. One team, the Offense, is charged with picking up and dropping off; the other team, the Defense, simply has to foil the plans and prevent the drop-off. Shannon tears open manila folders stamped 'Top Secret', provides laminated maps, and briefs the teams. You can use whatever means necessary to accomplish your task. Take a cab. Hop on a bus. Hitchhike. Whatever. Just get it done. 

Oh, and do it in an hour. That ticking timer is important for one of my tales!

Picking Teams
Operation Rendition Rockstars. 5 October 2013.

As with playground games in elementary school, we had to divide ourselves into two teams. There were the four of us, one couple, and a rowdy crew of siblings plus spouses. One gal suggested we interview each other to pick our teams. We thought she was kidding. She wasn't.

"What would your strategy be to prevent the other team from getting to the drop-off?" she started.

I would hunt them down and kill them, offered Michelle.

"No, but how would you do that?" she persisted.

I would remember what they looked like, hunt them down, and kill them.

Sounds just about right. Being able to identify the opposing team was key. And remembering what Shannon looked like was just as important. It's amazing what a change of clothes, or even just putting on a hat, does for someone's appearance! For one of the missions he cautioned the Offense to look for his blue shoes. Remembering that detail was crucial at the final hand-off for that mission.

Tucked into Alcoves

Because this is a game played out - in secret - in a public space, you often tuck into doorways as refuge or as a good spot to hide and shoot the other team. But often, you are in places where people might not expect you to be. During one mission, as he ascended to Coit Tower, Brian ducked into an alcove that just happened to be someone's front door. He was pressed against the door as he huddled from the hostiles. And - you guessed it - the door opened and he found himself on his back inside someone's entryway. Equally shocked, she shrieked and he jumped to his feet, explaining, "I'm sorry! I'm playing a game. Sorry." He hastily stepped out of her house and the door slammed shut...and he heard the deadbolt latch. "I'm sorry!" he apologized one more time through the locked door before he continued his climb up the street.

Public Shootouts
As the teams made their way through the city, there were shootouts in retail spaces. Tara told a story of hiding behind a mannequin in Macy's during one mission.

"Are you playing laser tag in my store?" queried one sales associate.

Ummm...yes, Tara admitted.

"Oh. Okay."

During another mission, Pia was hiding inside a pizza parlor. When she exited, she unexpectedly came face-to-face with the brothers on the opposing team. She screamed, like a girl, and ran back inside the pizza parlor with the guys right on her tail. She was shooting them. They were shooting her. Lasers were cutting through the air amid a cacophony of electronic beeps from their guns.

"Don't break my windows!" hollered the shop-keeper. Pia looked at him, startled, then realized he was joking. It's fairly astounding how nonchalant people are about the public shootouts. Astounding and wonderful.

Map Reading
When you read the map correctly, you can end up on a great position to start taking people out from an unexpected spot. When you read the map incorrectly...well, let's just say, you might end up in an intersection that you didn't plan on being at, surrounded by trashcans, an army of hostiles, and a traffic cop, taking fire from every angle. Whoops. Yes, that happened.

One last tale from the espionage trenches...

Twelve Seconds Late
It was the third and final mission of the day, but the first in which I was actively participating since I played family-photographer during the other two missions. Shannon patted me on the shoulder as we left the starting point. "Have fun, Rookie," he urged. Thanks.

Brian, Jake, and Allen headed off in one direction, descending from Coit Tower one way, while Amy, Pia, and I took some stairs headed off in another direction. Our strategy seemed simple enough. The guys would go to pick-up and we would make our way to the drop-off. We didn't know what they were picking up, we just knew it was magnetic and it was in a trashcan. While Shannon briefed us - Team China - Pia and I exchanged glances at the words "reach into the trashcan." Brian is a germophobe to the highest degree. There was no way he was going to retrieve the package.

While we strolled along towards our destination, we started hearing unnerving chatter.

"Jake's out," crackled in my earpiece.

"Allen's out, too," swiftly followed.

What?!? Come back. Jake and Allen are dead?


Brian, are you still alive?


Do you need back-up?


We looked at the map, told them where we were. A few exchanges later, we had a revised plan. One of the girls would meet Brian and the other two would continue with the original plan. Pia commanded, "Cam, you go meet Brian! Amy and I will head to drop-off as planned." What? Me? Okay. I started running.

"There's a sniper here at pick-up," whispered Brian. "I can't see where. And the other guys checked the trashcans. We can't find the package. We might have to call 'Buffalo.'"

"The package is there," came my husband's voice.

"Which trashcan?" asked Brian.

"I can't tell you. I'm dead," Jake reminded us.

Now you decide to follow rules, you bastard! 

Silence. Fine.

I'm one block away, I announced as I sprinted up the last block to pick-up.

"No! Go back down, turn right, and come up the next block instead. I'll meet you at the base of the hill."

What base of the hill? We're in San Francisco. Everything is hill.

"Just get here."

Seconds later, Brian and I were headed up the hill to the pick-up intersection. "I'll go up first. Stay behind me. I can get hit three times. And then I'm dead. So, I'll hand it to you and you have to make it to the drop-off. Okay?"


I hung back about a quarter of the way down the hill, finger poised on the trigger of my laser tag gun, watching for any hostile fire. Brian crouched behind trees, making his way to the trashcan. I held my breath as he reached inside. I barely blinked, then he was running past me.


You got it? 

"Yes. Go, go, go! I just reached into a garbage can...and I liked it. Run!"

Package acquired! I hollered into the walkie-talkie. We're on our way to the drop-off. Pia, your husband actually reached into a garbage can!

We had eleven minutes to make it about a dozen city blocks. I have completed several half-marathons and one full; I've even done a triathlon. And I've given birth to two kids. But nothing prepared me for this.

"Let's look for a cab," Brian suggested. As we were running along Columbus, we were looking inside every cab. Passengers. Full. Damn it. We glanced into hotel driveways, searching for an unoccupied cab. A bus with a Cal decal on the door was at a stoplight. I actually wondered what the driver would do if I knocked on the door, said I was from the Class of '96 and needed to get to Ghiradelli Square fast. 'Go, Bears!' I prepared to say, but Brian was still running.

Now, I can maintain just below a 10-minute mile indefinitely. Maybe not indefinitely, but I've done it for 26 miles. And I was struggling.  I'm going to throw up, I thought to myself. But Brian abhors running, so, if he was still running, there was no way I was stopping. I have no idea how fast we were going, but it was faster than my comfortable pace. Don't puke. Don't puke, I thought to myself as we sprinted through San Francisco.

Map in hand, I barked out directions. Keep going straight. Left. Go left. As we raced toward the square, we must have been quite a sight. People lurched out of the way. Finally we reached the square and paused for just a moment. I tried to catch my breath.

"Pia, do you copy?" demanded Brian.


"How do we get to you?"

I'm at the fountain. Watch out for the other team, they are hiding in the planters. We looked at the stairs leading up to the fountain and it was lined with planters. What the...

"Pia, you are going to have to draw fire so we know where they are."


"Start shooting so we know where they are!"

We started running again. Halfway up the stairs, Brian stopped, but I was right on his tail and I ran right into him and knocked out my ear-piece. I pointed up the stairs, "That's him. That's Shannon."


"Right there. Give me the package! I can get hit 10 times before I'm dead." I felt Brian press the rectangle into my hand and started sprinting toward Shannon with my finger on the trigger of my gun. As I handed him the package, he held up his phone, the timer. Eleven, it read. Woohoo! We made it with eleven seconds to go. Then I saw it move to twelve. It wasn't counting down. It was counting up. We missed it by twelve seconds. Arrrgh.

All the players moved in and, dripping with sweat and out of breath, I groaned, "We didn't make it!" The collective moan, from the Chinese, was brief as were the hollers of triumph from the Cuban team. Fierce competitiveness evaporated into friendly banter, high-fives were exchanged, and we started telling the stories.

Pia and I had no idea when we booked this that we would have to run - literally run! - all over San Francisco, that we would be ducking into retail establishments with laser tag Nerf guns in broad daylight, and that we would amass so many hilarious stories from the day that will be told and retold. We are already scheming about how to get up there to do it again...and which adventurous friends we are going to rope into joining us.

Our day with Foxhound Urban Adventures was an unforgettable, adrenaline-inducing series of spy escapades. Amazing. And, at the end of it all, Brian finally got his cab-ride.

If you're even considering joining Shannon for an afternoon of spy fun, do it. You won't regret it.*

Foxhound Urban Adventures

*I have not received any compensation for this review. All opinions and experiences are 100% my own.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

LAST CALL: Restaurant 1833 {Edible Monterey Bay}

This piece appears in the Fall 2013, No. 9, issue of Edible Monterey Bay...and hit the newstands today (29 August 2013).

Adventurous Libations for Whatever Ails You
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

In 1833, James Stokes, a British sailor, jumped ship with several cases of medicine and fraudulently presented himself as a doctor, opening a pharmacy in the single room, tile-roofed adobe in downtown Monterey.

Recently I sat in Stokes’s Apothecary, at a pale onyx bar that glows eerily under massive chandeliers and shelves that are lined with vintage bottles, books, and artifacts that evoke the 19th century. I was there to chat with Stokes’s present-day successor, Michael Lay, about his own methods of salving our ills. Luckily for us, the cocktails he crafts at Restaurant 1833 are the real deal. They’ve also attracted a big local following since the restaurant opened two years and in July, Zagat named Lay to its 2013 “30 Under 30” list of rising stars in the Bay Area restaurant world.

I’ve heard people refer to themselves as mixologists or spiritsmiths versus bartenders and asked his preference. “I’m a bartender,” he affirms. “To me, bartending is the embodiment of hospitality. It’s about making a drink that people enjoy, something that provokes curiosity and starts a conversation.”

Ted Glennon, sommelier and Beverage Director for 1833, joined us. “We celebrate the classic cocktails – going back to the basics but with an innovative spin.Michael is constantly reading and coming up with new riffs on traditional drinks,” he says.

Michael chuckles and admits, “Yeah, I’m kind of a nerd that way.” He chooses fresh ingredients for the cocktail menu whose House Remedies include Pain Killers, described as humble concoctions to numb your aches and lift your spirits; Stress Relievers; and Elixirs. “This is Stokes’s old pharmacy. So we play with that 1800s Wild West apothecary theme. Back in those days, the medicine prescribed to you contained booze. It might not do anything, but it would intoxicate you and you’d actually feel better.”

Bitters, a combination of alcohol, herbs, spices, and other flavorings, were originally created as medicinals. People might still aid digestion, after a heavy meal, with a nip of bitters, but, today, bitters are mainly used to add a layer of flavor and botanical wizardry to mixed drinks.

The cult following for craft cocktails here in our area and around the country has created an explosion of new bitters purveyors and prompted many bartenders and home mixers to concoct their own. Michael’s bar has the classics – Angostura and Peychaud’s – as well as an entire array of exotic varieties, including celery bitters and cardamom bitters. He also has a collection of housemade bitters, including orange bitters that he uses in the recipe he shared below.
A few elements elevate Michael’s cocktail creations above your regular bar offerings: freshness, creativity, and passion. “It’s about the experience,” he explains. “We have our tableside absinthe cart and we do a hot buttered rum tableside also. We want people to come here for an adventure.”

Courtesy Michael Lay, bartender, Restaurant 1833

2 ounces Weller 90 Bourbon
½ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
½ ounce Bonal Gentiane Quina
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce fresh orange juice
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Strain and serve over ice in a cocktail glass.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Road Trippin' to Big Sur for INDYpendence Day {Edible Monterey Bay}

This piece hit the Edible Monterey Bay blog this morning. Click here to read it there...or read below.

Road Trippin’ to Big Sur for INDYpendence Day
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

This month – on Independence Day – the ‘First Thursday’ INDY event hit the road and set-up in Big Sur. Initially, in 2012, the INDY was a mélange of farmers peddling their produce, artisans showcasing their foods and creations, and vintners pouring their libations in a dynamic, spirited marketplace. Having built a loyal following, the INDY was re-imagined earlier this year as a pop-up dinner hosted on the first Thursday of each month. There is still a mini-marketplace of local foodsmiths, but the central focus is a feast, served family-style, with live entertainment and a whole lot of community-building. People pass plates, swap stories, and revel in the festive atmosphere. And like the INDY marketplace before it, a portion of the ticket proceeds from the INDY pop-ups benefit a local non-profit. This month’s recipient was the very spot in which we were dining: the Henry Miller Library.

If you’re never been to the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, it’s a non-profit bookstore and arts center championing the late Big Sur resident, writer, and artist Henry Miller. Founded in the early 1980s, the bookstore is nestled beneath towering redwoods in the former home of one of Henry Miller’s friends.

In his 1939 novel Tropic of Capricorn, Miller wrote:  “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” His namesake library is a stunning venue with a relaxed vibe. It’s perfect for an INDY par-tay – a place to live, be aware, be joyous, be serene, and be drunk…as long as you’re not the designated driver for this lil’ road trip.

Thirteen months of working in and learning to cook in Rome, rendered me something of a pizza snob. I’m particular about the crust and even pickier about the toppings. Toppings need to be fresh, with flavors that just pop in your mouth. Danica Alvarado, the force behind Tricycle Pizza, absolutely nailed it. Tricycle Pizza is less than a year old, but Alvarado has her family working alongside and took her mobile wood-fire pizza and catering business full-time in November. While I chatted with her, her mom was tossing dough, her sister topped them, and her dad was slicing the pies as they came out of the oven. 

They served three different kinds of pizza – goat cheese and arugula, pepperoni and parsley, and pesto with chicken. After experimenting with different kinds of wood, Alvarado settled on apple wood which imparts a subtle flavor to her pizza and burns consistently for the duration of cooking. She explained that she brings the oven up to 1000 degrees, lets it cool to around 800, and the pies cook in a little under three minutes. The crust was perfectly crisp with a slight char on the rim. And the toppings were deliciously paired for a flawless presentation.

Another newcomer to the Monterey County food scene is Pop Culture Beverage owned by Drew and Elske Daigle. How new? you ask. Brand new. “We just moved here on Sunday,” gushed Elske. Formerly based in Santa Barbara, Pop Culture's Premium Artisan Beverages begin simply as fresh pressed fruit. They don’t add any color, flavor or artificial sweetener. Talking to them was like talking to a vintner who carefully selects the fruit before production begins. The Daigles aim to celebrate and retain the fruit's true flavor profile, using the juice from perfectly ripe fruit before gently carbonating and bottling their creations. They were pouring their Obamagranate, made with pomegranates from Madera, in the Central Valley. It was the perfect antidote the hot, summer sun.

Other vendors were set up throughout the garden. The PigWizard – John Roberts –  was slinging bacon, sausages, and jars of his Hog Scald Barbeque Sauce; The Drink Mixtress – Vanessa Share – was pouring grilled peach margaritas with fresh sage, citrus, and organic tequila plus an equally innovative lemon-cucumber mojitos made with yerba buena and organic rum; the ladies from Planet Love Funk set up a table with everything from chocolate confections to jarred spices for making chai; and there was a wide selection of veggies from Esalen’s Harvest Garden and beers from Post No Bills available for purchase.

Along with the pizza, Local Catch of Monterey Bay steamed clams and mussels in Tricycle Pizza’s oven. Todd Champagne, the Independent Marketplace co-founder and owner of Happy Girl Kitchen, presented piles of his Sour Garlic Pickles that had been sitting in brine for ten days. Chef Matt Millea, formerly of Sierra Mar Restaurant at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn, manned the grill, serving poblano peppers sprinkled with Big Sur sea salt, fresh ears of corn still in their husks, and chunks of sea bass on a bed of tomatoes topped with fresh hollyhock petals and a drizzle of herb aioli. “Yesterday, these were two thirty-five pound sea bass in our bay. Today, they’re this,” quipped Champagne from the stage, gesturing at the platters circulating the garden.

Entertaining the sold-out crowd was Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us, a seven-member band based in Big Sur. In fact, Magnus Toren, who strummed his guitar, sang, and drank beer simultaneously, acts as the Henry Miller Library’s Executive Director. Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us performed some original songs and some classics, some old school rock’n’roll and some rockabilly, a fusion genre that infuses the rock of the 1950s with some blues and country. While all their tunes were enjoyable, Tracy Chesebrough’s rendition of the 1966 Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman” was delightful.

Woke up this morning with light in my eyes
And then realized it was still dark outside
It was a light coming down from the sky
I don't know who or why

Must be those strangers that come every night
Those saucer shaped lights put people uptight
Leave blue green footprints that glow in the dark
I hope they get home all right

Hey, Mr. Spaceman
Won't you please take me along
I won't do anything wrong
Hey, Mr. Spaceman
Won't you please take me along for a ride

July’s INDY was a wild success, bringing mom-and-pop artisans to a crowd who rejoices in the local, the handcrafted, and the creative. Some were perennial favorites and some were new to the Monterey Bay foodscape. Either way, I now have some new favorites and will seek out their goodies wherever I can. Thanks to the organizers of the INDY First Thursday events for taking us along for a great ride. I’ve already penciled in the date for next month’s party: August 1st.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Where the Magic Happens: The Caves at Holman Ranch {Edible Monterey Bay}

This is on the Edible Monterey Bay blog: here. Or read it below.


Stepping into a vineyard’s wine cave feels slightly illicit. Maybe it’s the sense that you’re getting a peek into where the wine making magic happens. It’s where the wine ferments and ages, developing the flavor profile that the winemaker desires. Or perhaps it’s just that being underground lends a certain air of mystery.

The Caves at Holman Ranch are completely underground, carved into the hillside, to take advantage of the natural cooling and humidity. The 3000-square-foot area maintains a constant temperature, fluctuating only a degree or two from 58˚F to 60 ˚F, and houses four 750-gallon tanks, four 1200-gallon tanks, four open top tanks that can house two tons each, and one hundred François Frères oak barrels. All of the winery operations—from destemming and pressing to fermenting and aging—take place within the cool environment of the caves, while bottling is done directly outside using a mobile bottling line.

On the day that I visited, Guest Services Manager Nick Elliott greeted me, swung open the heavy wooden doors to the underground workspace, and invited me inside. We strolled towards a barrel topped with an army of wine goblets and a variety of Holman Ranch wines, including their estate Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé of Pinot Noir. It was the unreleased Chardonnay that intrigued me the most.

Over a picnic lunch just outside the caves, Nick poured both the 2010 Chardonnay and the not-yet-released 2012 Virgin Chardonnay. I chuckled when I finally saw the label. I had heard him mention ‘virgin’ when we talked about the wine, but I didn’t realize that that was its actual name – on the bottle.

While the 2010 is cold-fermented for three months in new François Frères oak barrels, the 2012 has never seen any wood. Nick and I discussed how the oak contributes to the character of the wine. Aging wine in oak barrels produces a smoother, fuller, and sweeter wine. Used judiciously, like Holman’s three months stint, the wine grows complex without getting too buttery and heavy.

New oak barrels impart flavor to the wine. With each use, the wine extracts progressively less and less oak flavor. After a few seasons of use—Holman Ranch considers their barrels ‘new’ for three rounds—the barrel is largely depleted of its oaky flavor. The barrels are still used after that; but they are simply labeled as ‘neutral’ barrels.
Though Holman Ranch’s 2010 Chardonnay is only oaked for three months, it still has that supple, round feel, woodsy smell, and toasty character that is fairly common in Chardonnay wines.

The 2012 Virgin Chard is altogether a different creature. The first word that came to mind after inhaling the bouquet was ‘grassy.’ The aroma reminded me of a freshly mown field—not golden straw or hay but lush, verdant grass. There is the faintest green tint to the wine as well. Even the foil capsule covering over the cork is a unique, almost iridescent shade of green. The wine was bright and crisp and after a few minutes in the glass it grew almost tropical. What a fun summer wine!

And the 2012 Virgin Chardonnay is only one of the up-and-coming wines to emerge from Holman Ranch. Nick, knowing my fondness for Pinot Noir, shared that they will have ten Pinots with a 2012 vintage. Ten. That is not a typo. While most are small production—with only about 50 cases bottled of each—Holman is debuting one larger production wine that will bear the name of the third Lowder daughter, Kelly.

Kelly’s Press is a pressed, versus free-run, wine which means that it’s made using the leftover must, the unfermented grape juice and contains the seeds, stems, and skins. It will join the 2010 Hunter’s Cuvée, a bold Pinot Noir with intense jam notes; the 2011 Heather’s Hill that makes me think of rose petals and peppercorns; the 2010 Estate-Grown Pinot that is aged for 12 months in French oak, resulting in an earthy wine with hints of tobacco; and six clonal varieties, including Clone 667, Clone 777, Clone 828, Pommard 4, Swan, and Calera.

Holman Ranch Vineyards consists of 19 acres that lie between 950 and 1150 feet in elevation. The topography of the surrounding area allows for morning fog that rapidly moves out as the air warms while sedimentary soils and Carmel stone play a major role in providing excellent soil drainage. The vines are planted 15 degrees off due north which allows for all-day sunlight on the fruit zone and good protection from winds. Holman Ranch’s inland valley is an ideal microclimate for the production of Pinot Noir grapes.

Currently in the process of attaining sustainable and organic certification, they do not use any chemical herbicides or pesticides on their fruit. Holman Ranch’s wines are refined and crafted to deliver the true varietal of the grape from harvest to table. And if purity and passion are key ingredients in the wine-making process, Holman Ranch truly excels in that arena.

You can take a trip to the Holman Ranch Tasting Room in the Carmel Valley Village to taste their wines. And if you ask really nicely, they might even let you into The Caves to see where all the magic happens. Or you can attend a special dinner in July at the vineyard that will showcase their wines.

Holman Ranch Vineyard and Edible Monterey Bay host a Farm (and Vineyard) to Table Pop-Up Supper Club on Sunday, July 28th to benefit the Food Bank for Monterey County. Click here to buy tickets.

 Holman Ranch Tasting Room
19 E. Carmel Valley Rd., Suite C
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
(831) 659-2640

Summer Hours
Mon–Thu – 11am–6pm
Fri–Sun – 12pm–7pm
Private Tasting – Call for information