Whole Hog Dinners begin this Tuesday. We’re pretty much booked for Thursday and Friday, but still have some reservations available Tuesday the 3rd and Wednesday the 4th. Saturday we’ll serve largely from the same menu, and reservations are still available.
Chef Canales has just about finalized the menu. So far, this is what we know:
Traditional-style Brunello producer Francesco Ripaccioli, of the small, very fine estate Canalicchio di Sopra, will spend the evening with us. Whereas his wines will be available throughout the dining room, we are also offering limited seating with Francesco where guests will dine with him, taste his wine, and talk about Brunellos in general and Canalicchio in particular.
At the winemaker’s table we’ll taste:
-the current release 2004 Rosso di Montalcino
-tastes of two great Brunello riservas: 1995 and 1999
-two excellent Brunello normales: 1998 and 1999
-and finally, we’ll taste the 2001 Brunello riserva along side the 2001 normale
Chef Canales has just begun to marinate Magruder grass fed beef in Canaliccho Rosso di Montalcino as a featured dish for our dinner tonight.
About the family: peasant sharecroppers until the 1950s, the family acquired a small property, began to make their own wines, helped establish the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino in 1967, and is now one of a very few traditional-style Brunello makers remaining. Their wines are quite wonderful.
There’s a very sweet story about the winery on their website.
Our Oceanic Dinners are the most spectacular of our special events. In collaboration with Monterey Fish Company and its co-owner, Tom Worthington, we serve some 60 species of sea beings and plants, all absolutely fresh, harvested sustainably and prepared deliciously, skillfully, imaginatively, and respectfully. Because weather affects species availability, Chef Canales will finalize his menu only when he gets a confirmed list from Tom. That menu will then be e-mailed and posted a few days before the event.
About a week before Tomato Dinners, when most of the tomatoes we will have to choose from are available for tasting, Chef Paul Canales and the cooks sit down with scores of varieties, mostly heirloom but some – like Early Girl-hybrids, and sort out which are the best, what their characteristics are, and how they might be prepared to best advantage. Amazingly, there is considerable variation even within varieties.
Every year, the variables of soil, weather, planting times, irrigation, and various farming practices yield surprising outcomes in flavor and texture. A farmer who produces a magnificent Pink Brandywine one year may offer a less flavorful one the next; but her Mortgage Lifters the same year might be nonpareil. Based on that tasting, each August we purchase around 3,000 pounds of the best tomatoes from local farmers for this joyful event.
Paul Willis still lives on the farm where he grew up, in Thornton, IA about 100 miles north of Des Moines. Paul’s passions have always included animals and taking care of the land. It is this passion that led him to join the Peace Corp where he worked as the Young Farmers Club Organizer for the Nigerian Ministry of Agriculture. In 1995, Paul was looking for a way to market natural “free range” pigs when he met Bill Niman. Paul wanted to revitalize traditional hog farming in the Midwest at a time when economics forced many farmers to sell out or turn to factory/confinement hog growing. Niman Ranch offered Paul the opportunity to raise pigs the humane, old-fashioned way and these outdoor-raised pigs quickly became a favorite among Niman Ranch customers. Today, Paul manages a network of over 500 family hog farmers. In addition to managing the Niman Ranch pork operation, Paul still raises 2,500 Farmers’ Hybrid hogs with his wife, Phyllis, and business partner, Jon Carlson, on the Willis Free Range Pig Farm. He also grows his own non-GMO soybeans and organic alfalfa and oats which are used for feed and bedding.
The natural time for animals to be born is the spring. Most pigs go to market at age 6-7 months.
The cost of feed. Niman Ranch tries to maintain a study supply of pork throughout the year, but it can be challenging. It can be difficult to supply pork in July, as those pigs must be born in December, which is a tough time for births
Paul finds pig farming satisfying and fulfilling. Paul likes interacting with the animals. In the past ten thousands years, raising livestock has been a part of the human experience. If his only option was factory farming, then he would not farm.
Animals that run get more oxygen in their systems. They build different types of tissue. They are happier. Willis’ pigs are allowed to socialize, play, root-around, and the piglets are kept with their sows for a full six weeks. This animal friendly environment means the product tastes better.
Length of relationship with Oliveto
Willis is part of the San Francisco Bay area Niman Ranch Food Company. Niman Ranch farms are independently owned. The brand gives these farmers access to the marketplace that they would not otherwise have.
Scott’s grandfather bought the farm in the 1960s and raised cattle and Arabian studs here until his death in 1994. Scott visited the farm often as a boy and a eventually moved to the farm to attend college in 1981. He began farming in 1984 and helped nurture the fledgling organic movement. He also served several terms as CCOF chapter President. The CSA was started in 1992 and now numbers 500 supportive community members. We hope that Laguna Farm is a model for the coexistence of agriculture and nature!
The farm was originally a nut tree orchard. The Toms sold almonds and walnuts to local bakeries (for 25 cents a pound!) Gradually the orchard gave way to a widening variety of produce. The farm eventually became profitable when they started selling at a number of farmers markets. Their son Welling finished college and returned home in the mid-1990s to help with the farm.
Maria Catalan is a former field worker. In 1994 she was exposed to organic farming practices at the Rural Development Center in Salinas. Frustrated with working with middlemen and food brokers as well as getting paid too little too late or not at all, she decided that direct marketing might be a better avenue to explore. She got involved with many CSAs, farmers’ markets, and eventually started selling directly to restaurants.
While she was growing up in Mexico her grandfather grew melons and other foods to feed her family. Maria wants to pass this knowledge on to her own four children. Maria believes that children, whether or not they intend to be farmers, should know how to raise their own food in a way that respects the air and the earth.
Chef Canales says: “This is a real family farm. They supply us with some of the most beautiful brassicas, and were the first to provide us with dry-farmed heirloom tomatoes. They know their climate and they manipulate how they grow certain things based on feedback from their customers.”
Community Supported Agricultural Programs
The farm is partnered with Northern California high schools and universities to bring students to the farm to work, eat home-cooked Mexican food, work at the farmers markets, and get a sense of farming life in a Latino community.
Maria believes in sharing her experiences with other farmers in her community. Currently, she is working with approximately a dozen small farms run by other Latinos, trying to get their farms certified organic so they can be paid the wages she believes they deserve.
Length of relationship with Oliveto
14.4 acres in Hollister, CA
Tomatoes and strawberries.
Secondary crops: chard, citrus, kale
Organizations / Certification
CCOF since 2005
Restaurants including Slanted Door, Greens, and Acme Chophouse
After farming from farming from 1990 – 1999 Martin took a few years off. He begin working his current farm in 2003. He wants and has wanted from the beginning to create a “chef’s kitchen garden.”
Oliveto co-owner Bob Klein helped Martin connect with some of Bob’s connections in Italy and Martin was able to obtain a lot of their various heirloom seeds. Now, some of the vegetables Oliveto gets from Martin are the descendants of seeds purchased from Bob’s Italian friends. Continue reading ‘Martin Bournhonesque – Profile’
Andrew Brait, Paul Muller, Judith Redmond, and Dru Rivers
They pick and pack fruit and vegetables year-round
“Full Belly’s system includes: growing and marketing over 80 different crops; providing year-round employment for farm labor; using cover crops that fix nitrogen and provide organic matter for the soil; developing innovative marketing strategies; and planting habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife. This set of strategies allows the farm to integrate farm production with longer-term environmental goals.