In the whole wide world there are few places where the best culinary talent meets the best food & drink as beautifully and seemingly effortlessly as at an event at The Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California. If you have yet to discover this farm and its produce, you are in for a treat. And for those who know it, you understand why this farm has such a loyal following. Saturday afternoon we were at the Farm for the double signing of Alice Waters’ Simple Food II and Kermit Lynch’s 25th anniversary edition of Adventures on the Wine Route. Despite the cool weather and some rain, which normally brings Southern California to a stop, the event was hopping, with crowds turning out by the hundreds for the chance to meet these two titans of food and wine. While everyone waited for their few moments with Alice and Kermit, we were served slices of some of the best pizza ever, prepared in a calm fashion, one by one and with care.
Every ingredient was fresh, with the produce toppings coming from Chino Farm. Did I mention awesome?
The oven was managed by owner John Gonzales of Bottaro Pizza. After about three minutes in the 700 degree wood-fired oven, the pizzas emerged, perfectly steaming hot~
There was a fantastic variety of pizza toppings, in delicious combinations. Near, topped with shredded butternut squash and mozzarella~
The slices left the table just as quickly as they came out of the oven, and you had to be fast to get a piece. It was a marvellous little dance of nimble hands…..this is the two finger slide~
and then there is the full grab~
These two little ones patiently waited their turn.
My Mom came with us, and she loved the pizzas so much she camped out at the end of the production line and sampled just about every kind of pizza that came out of the oven; though she eats Chino produce each week, this was her first visit to the Farm, and she absolutely loved it.
This was perfect food for a cold Saturday morning~
The hot pizza kept everyone warm while they waited in line for books to be signed. Here is Kermit Lynch with my friend, blogger and author Bonnie Manion of Vintage Garden Gal. Kermit reminded me of the French market vendors, never rushed, full of enthusiasm and advice, not to mention French-style hand gesturing; no one minded waiting for the book to be signed; this was no mechanical signing, each book was signed with good conversation and a personal connection.
And right after the book was signed, there was a tasting of Kermit’s Côtes du Rhône, just what I wanted to chase the morning chill away!
Glass of wine in hand, I joined the line to have Alice sign my book. And a beautiful book it is~
The line wasn’t fast, but that was probably because there were so many copies to sign. Many of us bought multiples.
And a few brought older books to sneak in for an autograph. Weren’t officially supposed to do that, but it’s because Alice has so many devotees.
One thing you you saw were plenty of smiles. Despite the rain, everyone was having a grand time under the canopies which had been set up; lots of smiles, lots of laughter, and lots of conversation. Young and old, having a great time.
Most everyone came prepared for the rain, turned out in Wellies and suede boots, with Rufus the service dog.
Alice too was all smiles, greeting each of us when it came our turn~
There were some pre-signed copies on hand, but there is nothing as inspiring as having a personally-addressed book by Alice Waters in your kitchen~
Books in hand, I headed back to the stand to fill my basket for the week, starting with some greens~
So good. So perfect. So inspiring…
* * * * *
After a busy week of holiday styling projects I decided to make Sunday truly a day off, and spent it cooking and browsing my two new books. Making a trip to the basement, I looked for a bottle of something good, something fitting, for us to have with lunch. Several years ago I took my two teenage nephews on a tour of France, including wine tasting in Chassagne-Montrachet. Before we left the cave in Chassagne, Dennis had labelled each bottle with his tasting notes and the buyer. We hand-carried these bottles home with us; this was one of mine, with Dennis’ note “Best Red.”
Best red indeed; it’s a bottle from one of my favorite Burgundian vintners, Gros Frere et Soeur, Clos Vougeot Musigni, Grand Cru 2007. Most people fall in love with this etiquette or label. Just wait until you taste the wine~
What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with this bottle and this book?
This will go in the library in Beaune, a new part of the wine reading for our guests. Kermit’s French office is also in Beaune, and a short walk from the house. I loved chatting with him, and appreciate his inscription~
After reading the introduction, I went straight to this chapter. Oh my.
“Good red Burgundy is the most captivating wine in the world.”
* * *
“California Pinot Noir is to Burgundy what the Empire State Building is to the Notre-Dame.”
-Kermit Lynch, Adventures on the Wine Route
Amen. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read the rest of this book, which I will do soon in Beaune. Love this book; as timeless and true today as it was 25 years ago. A must-read for anyone interested in French wine.
And then it was time for a grand Sunday lunch and Alice’s book. As with Simple Food, Simple Food II is clearly and carefully laid out and illustrated.
OK it’s confession time. I have never eaten at Chez Panisse, though I have driven and walked by it on Shattuck in Berkeley a hundred times. It’s on my bucket list to dine there, perhaps for a big birthday or something one of these years. And it wasn’t until I bought Alice’s 40 Years of Chez Panisse at her last Chino Farm event and then bought Simple Food that I really became familiar with her books and the depth and breadth of her knowledge. As I begin to read Simple Food II I have the same feeling, of familiarity with some of her concepts. Of course I would grow various herbs, right outside my kitchen door; of course we would finish dinner with a tisane from the same herb bed; of course we would eat what was local and in season; these are fundamental concepts in France, and in my own cooking. But from there, Alice takes us on a tour of the garden with the title “Flavor as Inspiration” and presents so many new and interesting recipes. The second section of the book is “Seed to Seed,” an additional sixty pages chock full of Alice’s insight into growing your own best garden. From what I consider a French base, Alice brings in our varied California produce and takes food and its flavors absolutely over the top, without making it too difficult for the average person wanting to eat better, locally and seasonally. I love having her books on hand as a reference and an inspiration. I love each section of Simple Food II, for example, the Citrus and Lemons. What a great way for me to learn more about what I am eating, and what to look for. Simple Food is the book I always recommend when asked “what one cookbook should I buy?” Alice presents a wonderful blend of French sensibility and good taste.
Love this book and can’t wait to explore it through the coming seasons.
For lunch yesterday we had Alice-inspired lamb lollipops just the way my family loves them: broiled with a Dijon mustard-garlic-herb coating and served with a Chino Farm green salad with chives from the garden. I infused the drippings with a few blackberries for a little extra color and flavor. My family pronounced them delicious, and loved the little touch of berry.
And I found inspiration for dessert also from Alice, in her Blackberry Soufflé.
Here it is ready to go in the oven~
I usually use a Julia Child recipe, but never tried it with blackberries; I can count on Alice Waters to expand my food horizons. I think my oven is a little hot, so next time I’ll make an adjustment. A little more brown than I’d like for that reason, but it was delicious and pretty. I look at this and I see a special summer dessert for the girlfriends, with a glass of Champagne.
Love these two books and can’t wait to spend more time reading them. Thank you to Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch for writing these beautiful books, and to The Chino Farm for bringing these events together. You are nothing short of amazing! See you at the next event~