Sunday, June 26, 2011

Seabreeze Farm to Table with Jason Mraz

“Farm-to-table” is a dining concept to use what is local, hopefully at peak season, just picked…and cook it in a traditional or maybe a creative way.  Today we gathered at Seabreeze Farms in coastal San Diego for a FTT brunch to help the Farm raise money to drill a well; the water bill now runs about 3 grand per month.  Ouch!  The food and décor was handled; I was asked to assemble various donated items for silent auction.  I will do a post soon on how to do up a gift basket, but here are a few pics of what I did this morning.  I used whatever was donated, then filled out the two dozen baskets by running around the 2 acre farm collecting various natural items I thought would catch the eye of potential bidders, in this basket, a massage gift certificate and incense rounded out with orange boughs and lavender cuttings~


As I wanted to feature the auction items and the produce of the farm, I opted for simple baskets and neutral raffia bows.  I showed Julia how to finish the tulle on the first one and let her do the rest while I got back to assembly~


I use two kinds of tulle instead of cellophane wrap; you can see through it, the tulle can be reused, it’s pretty, and infinitely better than plastic.  In this case a single gift certificate became a basket with tomatoes and sunflowers from the farm’s cutting garden; it’s all in a French Basketeer child size palm & lambskin basket~


My favorite auction item was a dinner for six at your home, cooked by Chef Gordon, styled by yours truly, with produce from Raquel and her Rancho Santa Fe Market.  I pulled a cabbage and onions from the garden below,  added in some fresh chamomile flowers and other produce I found; this was an especially pretty basket~


When the baskets were finished, I was able to take a more leisurely tour of the farm, with my camera.  A view of the floral cutting garden~


Right next to the flowers you find the chicken coop.  Raised beds held greens; a wire grid on top prevented the greens from being completely eaten by the girls, while le coq strutted by~


Up the road a ways there is a second coop, for the chickens that are free-ranging it around the farm; they were off in the bushes as I investigated their home; I had only had one mimosa at this point, I promise, but for some reason I angled the photo rather poorly!~


There were a few broody girls in the main coop;


A compost pile is also in the coop area; as you can guess, we had mimosas with brunch, from the farm’s oranges~


Every inch of this farm is given to growing something.  And wow, what a variety.  From high on the hill you can see the ocean, and it’s a very idyllic location.


But it is of course a serious working farm.  There are three men who work full-time to care for the chickens, a horse, a goat, and rows and rows of veggies, flowers, grapes, herbs, several greenhouses…here some carrots~


The farm practices some “vertical growing” which uses planters; this is supposed to give you more planted space than a simple row; the drip irrigation starts at the top and works its way down; another efficiency~


All of the plants are started from seed in a greenhouse; I wasn’t familiar with the material being used to start the plants; it looked like mostly mica~


There were so many amazing people who came together for this event.  An hour before, we were all scurrying around to get our portion finished.  Our Chef, Gordon Smith was the picture of calm despite preparing for a meal for 100; he is one of the founders of Slow Food San Diego and a very gracious man indeed~


Everything we ate was from the farm with the exception of the cheese in the frittata and the bubbly in the mimosas.  Gorgeous salads~


Oh, and we had constant entertainment, from the moment we arrived, including Dawn Mitschele, one of the most beautiful voices and talented songwriters; Dawn was one of the organizers of the brunch through her Love Nation Project, which supports health and healing through music in San Diego and the world~


The very talented & spiritual Ariah Firelfly~


We had a talk by the President of Slow Food San Diego, Scott Murray.  Scott’s talk was brief but to the point: there are more small farms in San Diego County than anywhere else in the country.  Yet 95% of what is grown here gets trucked somewhere else, while 95% of what we eat travels an average of 1,200 miles to get to us.  There is something wrong with these numbers, right?  Scott and Raquel, our Rancho Santa Fe market manager~


The final set of the day was by local resident, part-time avocado grower & two-time Grammy winner Jason Mraz~

Jason is a low-key, unassuming type….but when he got to that mic he really turned on that star power….amazing amazing performer & vocalist….I am officially now a huge fan!!!  Jason with Raquel and her daughter Julia~


The cool thing….who won that auction item, dinner at your home prepared by Gordon, Raquel & me….Jason Mraz….we are going to collaborate to prepare an extra special experience for Jason & his guests~


As he was trying to figure out how to get his auction basket of veggies home, I offered a nice XL Moroccan basket that I have been using lately as a personal.  Well, ok I confess.  I ran over this basket in my driveway some time ago and it got up into the wheel well.  And survived, perfectly.  It’s still a super basket, not to mention sturdy, I’ve just not wanted to part with it.  It arrived holding my gift-basket-supplies but left with Jason and his produce basket.  Another case of someone finding the basket suited for them~


So long to the beautiful farm, for now~


There will be more farm to table events soon~


I’m waiting for the final numbers, but I am sure the event was a huge success for Seabreeze; what an amazing collaboration of people getting together for great reasons!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Antiquing in Brittany

The history of Brittany is rich, long, and I would say…rather complicated.  It is a fascinating story of Vikings, Celts, Romans,“English,” marriages, alliances and battles, all set on the verdant Amorican peninsula.  In 1532 there was a “treaty of union” between the Duchy of Brittany and the famous Francois Ier, which established a relationship with France.  After the French Revolution the Duchy was no longer recognized.  It’s easy to think of all of France as “French,” but in Brittany as in Burgundy there is a wonderful  and deep regional association. More on that later. Meanwhile, I am already planning my next visit to Brittany!  

My next visit will certainly include some serious antique shopping.  I want to show you a few of the items that caught my eye and which are calling me to return…The sign looks rather unassuming….a charming take on the nautical connection of the region~


On entering the store, I dare say this was a very upscale brocante; the quality was high; I wanted these, 850 euro the pair~


and I love the display of this, and the shot I took of mirror on mirror~


tell me you don’t love this chandelier, what we would call a lustre in France~


I have decided I want a lustre in the kitchen in Beaune.  I suppose I need to clear that with R first, but I found many many pretty ones in this shop in Brittany that I would love……


Not to mention the sconces; this pair caught my eye with their slightly smoky pedants and floral motif; the walls are covered in a rich caramel burlap; I can’t tell you how this sets off the wood and crystal and gold tones; the French are masters of display…..


The details on the mirror….so pretty~

IMG_5898There are many things I love about this pic~ IMG_5900

But mostly the clock or pendule; I have wanted one for sooo long, a good one, a real one.  I keep looking at them…..


Also on my list, a beautiful barometre; guess I had better keep selling baskets, a lot of baskets; I love this classic ribbon model~


but set my heart on this one; it would be perfect outside the kitchen in Beaune….sigh….


I have sooo many other pics to show but will finish with this; a maquette of a roof; a series of them recently show in Veranda Magazine. 


I will be shopping here soon!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

La Très Belle Ville de Vannes

I made the acquaintance of a veteran copper collector in France, oh, some time ago.  Guy has been my pen pal of sorts, and in our regular emails we covered the waterfront, from copper to various antiques & collectibles, a little of our personal lives, and the political situation in the U.S. and France.   I have acquired many lovely pieces of antique French copper from Guy, all of which I am either using or in the process of re-tinning for use here and in Beaune.

While he initially shipped pieces to me in Beaune, before this last trip Guy and his wife Jacqueline invited me to not only visit them in the town of Vannes, in Brittany, but to be their guests.  A small gamble, to spend a long weekend with relative “strangers”?  Perhaps. But the French do not invite just anyone to their homes; this was an honor.  I thought it brave of them also to offer to host une Americaine they had not met in person, but also her entourage of friends.  But I trust my instincts, and I do love the Brittany coast.  And, yes, I was curious to see more of Guy’s copper collection.  In the end it was just me and Laura, and we were in for a French-style treat~


I have spent much time in the northern part of Brittany, in the St. Malo area.  Lovely, and fun, watching the tide come in, as Victor Hugo said, “at a gallop.”  There was so much prep for this last trip I admit, I really didn’t have time to research Vannes, which is on the southern coast of Brittany.  Upon arrival, Guy & Jacqueline met us is in front of the Hotel du Ville, and showed us to their lovely home; and we soon went for a tour of the old town, each shop more charming than the last~ 


I have referred to the maison à colombages also called maison à pan de bois in some posts. Most people see these “half-timbered houses” and think it is English style.  I trace this back to William the Conqueror in 1066; the French influence ran over into England.  In any case, the style was alive and well in France from about the 12th Century into the 19th Century.  The buildings have a “boned” structure of wood beams filled in with brick and plaster, built on top of a first (ground) floor made of stone.  You see this style of construction in most parts of France (and elsewhere in Europe), including in Burgundy, but most often in Normandy and Brittany.  The center of Vannes is very charming as it is almost all colombages style, with many fine examples and imposing elevations.  The buildings are painted in assorted colors, with the traditional slate or ardoise roofs at precipitous angles~ 


The architecture is amazing; look at how close these two roofs are!  That’s the spire of the Cathedral of St. Pierre in the background~


The colors, oh the colors! The geometry of the beams…the charming rooflines and windows!~


I love this pic for the seated patrons~ one happy, one perhaps grumpy, below a magnificent façade and elevation~


Here you get two treats~ the fantastic grillage of the ironwork on the left, and on the right side of the street you see the avancement of the facade.  There is always a generous overhang at the top, and each floor below recedes just slightly; this keeps the rain and the damp off the building, in principle….


There is frequently a complicated system of egoutoires (drainage or rain gutters) for these buildings.  Fantastic~


Elsewhere in Vannes, the stately homes and ironwork reminds of the French influence on New Orleans~


And yet there is the nautical influence; these are in the style of shipheads and I think they date to the 1600’s, the personnages of “the city of Vannes and his wife.”  The color of his shirt is faded but the stripes are the color “Brittany blue.”  I can’t remember the exact story but they are famous, and well-protected by the avancement of the building above~


Beauty and charm is found all over town~


The vast public gardens invite a stroll~


In the sunlight, the buildings are magnificent; no wonder Brittany is especially popular in summer~


More to show you next time of the Coast of Brittany. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father’s Wishes

I asked my Dad a few weeks ago what he would like for Father’s Day.  A certain meal? Something special?  A Mani-Pedi appointment? This is our periodic ritual; a manicure-pedicure, just the two of us.  In addition to a soak & a trim for his hands and feet, he gets a long massage for his hands, feet and shoulders.  With a nod from me, the girls at the salon know the routine, and I always pay, after a hushed accounting.  At the end of the visit Dad always asks me, “how much did that cost?”  I always respond the same, “$20.”  And Dad is happy.   

So back to this Sunday, American Father’s Day.  What does he want?  1) NO family dinner, can’t stand all that noise, my sisters’ arriving late and leaving early with the leftovers; 2) YES to the manicure-pedicure appointment; 3) he wants a “personal” jar of jam, “something good;” and 4) a loaf of “that brown sourdough bread.”  Lastly, 5) a steak for dinner on Sunday.  Next month we will celebrate his 80th birthday, so I guess at this age you know exactly what you want.  I am indeed planning something special for his birthday; thankfully I am hosting.  I have been on the look out the last few weeks for “something good” for his jam jar, and last weekend I found it; four boats of tiny fresh raspberries and four boats of boysenberries ready to burst.

Boysenberries are a cross between a raspberry, a blackberry and a loganberry, and they are something of a local delicacy.  You can read about them HERE.  They appear at our local markets for a very short time each summer, and when the best are available, I snap them up and sauce and jar them.  Boysenberry syrup is made commercially by Knott’s Farms, but home-made on pancakes or dessert will knock your socks off. 

I will post a pic of the berries this week; I got too excited I guess and took this pic as I started the jam process~


I use an old French recipe, which calls for a 3:1 ratio of fruit to sugar.  My recipe calls for making a syrup of sugar with a tiny bit of water.  Before the days of thermometers, this recipe says to boil the syrup until it “falls through the holes of the skimmer as when making balls of soap.”  I use a little less sugar, and here is a pic after I added the fruit and stirred a bit~


That may not look particularly appetizing, but in it’s final form it looked wonderful; I put the jam in the biggest vintage French Jam Jar I have~


The sight of this made Dad really happy, and he immediately asked me to get him a plate of the blackberry and rose ice creams I had made that day and top it off with “his” jam~


Dad is happy, all week, with his morning toast of Poilaine bread “au levain” and evening ice cream topped with his jam.  Father’s Day all week….why not?