Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Farm to Table with Chef Stephanie

Last week, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a local farmer and present a true farm to table dining experience at the Algarden Cafe, we called the "Candlelight dinner".  The farm to table movement has gained momentum in recent years as chefs look to have direct relationships with their farmers and ranchers. In addition, diners want to know more about the sources of the food on their plates and everyone is looking to reduce the food miles their ingredients are traveling. The average ingredient travels up to 2,500 miles. The path that food travels for a farm to table dinner is typically much shorter, only passing through the hands of the chef before arriving on your plate and, in this case, we are talking 13 short miles!

Patricia Algara tends a farm in Berkeley called the Algarden, where she grows vegetables, fruit, culinary herbs, mushrooms and almonds. She is also raising chickens and keeps bees. She is the owner of Foodscaping, a design build studio specializing in edible landscapes and urban farms. 

I started out with a trip to the farm in April to see what was growing and what would be available for a dinner in early June. I met the chickens and the bees and was impressed with the gorgeous edible flowers, huge fava plants and the variety of greens growing. I started my menu planning right away and enlisted Pei-Yee Woo to tackle the desserts

Chef Stephanie (R), Patricia Algara (L)

As the  dinner approached, I learned that some of the ingredients would not be available, like yellow beets, they were still too small. But others were in abundance, like kale and chard. So I set out to adjust the menu accordingly.

Even when it was time to harvest, the day before the event, we had a few surprises with the available ingredients and this is what I ended up with:

Edible flowers, lettuces, kale, chard, fava beans, potatoes, parsnips, red beets , spring onions and garlic, daikon radishes, mint, rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano, strawberries, lemons

And this is what it became:

Lettuces, edible flowers, strawberries, blue cheese and pecans

Parsnips, , parsley, lemon, chives, chive blossoms, chipotle aioli

Dikon radish salad with preserved lemons and arugula, Red beets with beet greens and chard

French lentils, fava greens, onions, roasted potatoes, eggs

Pistachio caramels
Lemon curd and strawberry pastries

The Candlelight Dinner was a huge success and a lot of fun! Please join us for the next event scheduled for August 4th. Email with any questions or to sign up!

Locally Grown Weddings Featured Members:
Pei-Yee Woo, Wedding Desserts 

Photographs courtesy of Chef Stephanie and Patricia Algara

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