Although the weather has taken a cooler turn in the past week, the produce at the South Berkeley Farmers’ Market yesterday was the product of an unusually hot season that got off to an early start with a number of heatwaves that began back in May. Instead of a steady trickle of new harvests, things seem to be arriving all at once with peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, (all those heat-loving plants) taking the lead.
Dinners with Farmers
with farmer Judith Redmond,
Full Belly Farm
Monday, June 24, 2013, at 6:30 pm
in Oliveto’s quiet private dining room,
for fourteen* guests
Call (510) 547-5356 for reservations or email email@example.com
It all begins with the local farmer, who gives us the ability to cook a succulent and salubrious meal and who can restore the health of our soils and environment. In the past few decades, the reemergence of farmers’ markets has made the farm-to-city connection palpable and real and life-changing for many.
We’d like to invite you to extend the short exchanges at farmers’ markets to longer, more relaxed conversations over dinner, to broaden and deepen relationships with our local farmers.
We all have hundreds of questions for the farmer: How and why did you decide to become a farmer? When does your day begin, and end? How do you decide what crops to plant? What effects do politics and legislation have on your business? Describe your farm -the soils, the microclimate, rainfall, water sources? Can you put into words the philosophy by which you live? And on and on.
We’ve invited a different farmer for each of four evenings, beginning with one of the most important and beloved in the family farm community of northern California: Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm in Guinda, Yolo County.
Salad of new potatoes with summer vegetables
Bigoli pasta with barley, Cranberry beans, tomatoes, and peppers
Roast hen with purée of charred eggplant, corn, and cherry tomatoes
Dessert of seasonal figs or peaches
to be determined
Price: $60 per person
plus tax and gratuity
Check out Full Belly’s beautiful, up-to-date, and informative website: fullbellyfarm.com
Our Pastry Chef, Kam Golightly, visited with Judith Redmond at Full Belly Farms in Guinda last weekend to become familiar with the farm and its workers. Judith was particularly exuberant about her eggplants, which are just reaching their maturity. The corn, haricots verts, and fingerling potatoes are at their peak.
We’ll plan other dinners with growers whose beautiful crops we use at Oliveto as summer progresses. The limited participation of fourteen will keep the evening intimate and let everyone join the conversation.
Call (510) 547-5356 for reservations or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dinner is June 24, 2013
Please note there will be one seating at 6:30 pm
*Subject to cancellation should response not warrant the long drive for each farmer.
We hit the Derby Street 63rd and Adeline market yesterday to check in with some of our favorite tomato farmers and find out how the season is progressing.
Last time we’d checked in things were off to a slower and cooler start than expected which led to our decision to reschedule this year’s Tomato Dinners for mid-September. This time around we found an eye-popping barrage of technicolored specimens representing a wide range of varieties which are all ripening right now. Additionally we were told again and again, this is just the beginning!
Today marks the first day of Summer 2011 and many signs of the season were on display at the Derby Street Market: fragrant basil, cherry tomatoes from Full Belly, summer squash and those knockout long stem Seascape strawberries from Lucero, and piles of “ripe shamefaced peaches” (had to get in a belated Bloomsday reference) at Blossom Bluff.
But one of the definitive signs that it is truly summer at the Derby Street market is the appearance of our friends from Dirty Girl Produce. And there they were! Right next to a freakin’ harp player!
Seems that Santa Cruz was not as waylaid by rain as it was last year, so most of Dirty Girl’s crops were planted on schedule. Their romanesco was looking particularly lovely today, as well as some smaller bunched broccoli. Coming up: beans. Lots and lots of beans (haricots vert, romano, cannellini, among others) should be arriving from Dirty Girl Produce within the next few weeks. And the official statement on dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes? ETA: 4-5 weeks.
Everyone is out and about in their shirtsleeves, but market wise, spring’s a little late this year. We visited the Derby Market on Tuesday and talked to Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm in Yolo who said that due to the late rains, the ground has been too wet to work. Finally, this past week, they have been able to get new plantings in the ground. So it will probably be another few weeks before we see full blown spring produce at most of the markets. The asparagus has been good so far, but other early perennials such as strawberries haven’t quite hit their mark yet.
Rumor has it there was one box of peas at the Full Belly stand, but they were all gone within an hour.
The only way you can tell if a potato is freshly dug is by its peeling, delicate skin. Because their skins haven’t had time to harden, they need to be refrigerated if kept more than a few days. They are creamier, less starchy, and sweeter, although the flavor is less concentrated.
For mature, cured potatoes, Full Belly will cut the leaves of the plant & keep the potatoes in the ground until the skins harden, allowing the potatoes to be stored without refrigeration.
New potatoes will continue to be harvested from different parts of the bay area over the next few weeks and then go into storage. So right now (the next crop won’t be until the fall) is the time to get them when they are in fact “new” & also delicious.
Chef Canales will have freshly-dug potatoes on menu this weekend served with scallions, crêmé fraïche, and caviar…
because even though you don’t have to do much to make these potatoes taste great, if you can, why not?
Yesterday, Bill and Paul hit the Derby Street market just in time to see all the purple asparagus vanish. No bother. There was plenty else to ogle including ‘crazy’ cabbage from Full Belly Farm and beautiful red romaine lettuce from Riverdog Farm. Also some massive goose eggs from Arthur Davis of Ludwig Avenue Farm and a few tips from Chef Canales on how to poach them.
From this point on it only gets better with berry season just around the corner and stone fruits soon after.
Last June we were troubled, as many were, to learn the news that Bill Fujimoto would be leaving Berkeley’s Monterey Market. Bill has been a friend and supporter of Oliveto from day one, and to many restaurants. More importantly, Bill has been a virtual lifeline for many small farmers in northern California and beyond. We were anxious around the possibility of losing such an influential voice and presence in the East Bay food community and eager to keep in contact with both Bill and his wife Judy once it became apparent that a suitable arrangement with Monterey Market would not be forthcoming.
So we were pleased as punch to find our old friend last Thursday arranging pyramids of beautiful produce at Diablo Foods in Lafayette (925-283-0737). Bill has been working at Diablo for the past few months as a consultant. He looks great. He says he feel great. And he already seems to know 87% of his customers by name. In the short time we were there, we learned so much (there is an “official” navel orange for Chinese New Year!) and we were so inspired by that contagious-Fujimoto-enthusiasm, we decided we needed to create a mainline to the source. Who better to tell us what we should be shopping for than Bill himself? So, we’ll be posting Bill’s Farmers’ Market Reports — full of fun facts, shopping tips, and insightful observations throughout the spring and into the summer. We’ll go shopping with Bill at some of our favorite farmers’ markets in the East Bay and find out from the expert what to buy and how to buy it. Alongside that, we’ll get Chef Canales’ take on how to cook and eat it! Should be fun…
‘Tis the season of abundance and acute ripeness, as summer crops put all their remaining energy into their final fruits and seeds in one last attempt to be sown back into the earth. The farms themselves seem at their most beautiful, and the harvest months have a certain celebratory cheer about them, the true pleasure in a job well done.
It’s also the season when farmers and chefs alike are borderline overwhelmed with an onslaught of fruits & vegetables that are ripe RIGHT NOW. It brings an immediacy and a level of creativity to the kitchen and menu that is unique to this time of year.
The term farmers use to describe some of their produce (specifically tomatoes and stone fruit) around now is “dead ripe.” Chef Canales explains to us what that means exactly and describes the sense of timeliness it brings to the act of cooking during this brief yet vibrant season.