Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dining with the Stars

We have been excited about this dinner for months. Jim drove down to L.A. at the end of July to scout out the site and returned to Santa Cruz very enthusiastic. As was discussed in our NYC entry, there is a uniqueness about community garden dinners and Wattles Farm has a lot to share.

Toby Leaman, president of the board of directors and longtime member of the garden, has been our Wattles liason and met us to unlock the gates the morning of the dinner. She is a very sweet lady with tons of passion towards the garden, its history and its hundreds of members.
What is now Wattles Farm was once an avocado grove/fruit orchard for the nearby Wattles Mansion. In 1975 it became Wattles Farm, to begin growing into what it is today, making it one of L.A.’s oldest community gardens. It is 4.2 acres in size, and right off Hollywood Blvd tucked away on Curson Ave, less than 1 mile from the Walk of Fame.

Spacial organization of the dinner is a bit more of a challenge in these community gardens, more so than a 4.2 acre field of course. After some contemplation, Jim opted for a V table, running it off along two walking paths, lined by fruit trees and garden plots.

Unexpectedly, a few guests arrived early and Toby ushered them on a private tour around the garden sharing her stories and knowledge of the plants and trees.
Allen Quinton & his wife of Antelope Valley Winery set up under the trees to pour their Muscat Canelli to the arriving guests. We are excited to finally work with Antelope Valley Winery owned by Cecil McLester. Cecil's son Andrew is a good friend of Jim’s and is the wine consultant for Outstanding in the Field. A few members of the garden were also there at the welcome area to tour small groups of guests through the rows of avocado trees and garden plots bursting with herbs, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, chard, beans and berries.

A number of garden members were present to lead small groups of guests around the garden. Some gardener guides were more elaborate with their tours than others, but eventually everyone arrived back at the greeting area for Jim and Katy’s welcome. Plates in hand, the guests then cozied into their seats at the table to be begin their meal with a beautiful salad of radicchio, burrata, figs and mineolas from the garden kitchen of Kris Morningstar and Blue Velvet Restaurant. See Kris’ full menu here.

Guests enjoyed the dinner at a leisurely pace. Kris’ uni chowder was delicious, the uni (sea urchin roe) being a new experience for many of the diners. The platter receiving the greatest reaction at the table was the yellow wax peppers stuffed with lamb’s tongue served over shelling bean salad. The dish was paired with Antelope Valley's 2005 Tempranillo; Antelope Valley's first bottling of the Tempranillo grape. Dessert was a zucchini bread with zucchini mousse– one friend of Outstanding in the Field mentioned afterwards that it was the best thing she had ever eaten, ever.

The evening was topped off by a brilliant sighting of a shooting star. Jim was addressing the table when he suddenly noticed many of the guests pointing up into the sky behind him with their mouths hanging open. Of course by the time he had spun around, the spectacle was over. Very memorable for the guests.

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