Friday, December 12, 2008

Foraging Feast

After several weeks hiatus, the OITF crew reconvened at Pie Ranch in San Mateo County California for our 5th annual foraging feast. Besides having a lovely forest setting for our forage explorations Pie Ranch is a very cool operation that works to bring inner city youth out of the city and on to the farm. Jered Lawson, Nancy Vail and Karen Heisler of Pie Ranch partner with San Francisco high schools to get kids out to the field to "get their hands dirty". The farm's urban connection is Mission Pie, a sweet little cafe and bakery in San Francisco's Mission district. Mission Pie's menu features ingredients from local farms... including Pie Ranch. We are excited to support such a project, but also love Pie Ranch as it has the perfect nice cozy barn to host a late season event.

Though it was nearly December we were blessed with a beautiful and warm late fall afternoon. As guests arrived a cool fog gave way to bright sun while further up the hill guests gathered for the reception. Long time OITF supporter Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard poured his Vin Gris de Cigare. A crisp glass of pink wine was welcome reward after the short hike through towering eucalyptus trees from the parking area below. Guests toured the farm sipping wine, nibbling salt cod crostini, picking strawberries, visiting the chickens and enjoying the sunny rays. Forager David Chambers tempted everyone with the aroma of sauteed porcinis, a special treat for after the foraging hike. Guests gathered, introductions were made and David tromped off with all in tow. With a glorious view of forest and ocean from high on the nearby hill all stood rapt soaking in the foragers lore. With a final 'Let's Eat!!' everyone began the long trek back to the barn to feast.

Tunnel of Green

Welcome Table

The sun sets and we climb

Making Mushroom Bacon

Guest chef Morgan Mueller and his spirited crew from Bacar were prepared for arriving guests with four delicious courses. The idea behind the foraging dinner is to use local Santa Cruz Mountains ingredients, highlighting foraged items such as seafood (mussels, abalone, fish), wild nettles, miner's lettuce and of course wild mushrooms like chanterelles, porcinis and boletes. A couple of times the menu has even featured wild boar!

A glass of Vin de Cigare Blanc and a steaming bowl of spicy, hearty soup welcomed our forest hikers in the corn- and gourd-decorated barn. The soup, composed of fresh fresh mussels (just harvested the day before by Andre LaFleur and David Chambers), potatoes, proscuitto and jalapenos warmed and satisfied our well-walked guests. Heaters warmed the guests as strangers became friends over good food and wine. Pictured below is both the soup and then a delicious platter of wild nettles (from literally right outside the barn), mixed wild mushrooms and black cod. See the full menu for the evening here.

Steamed mussel soup

Black Cod, Foraged Mushrooms, Nettles

Jered shared a beautiful little documentary (barn multimedia, something we usually don't have out in the field) about Pie Ranch, starring several Bay Area high school students visiting the ranch. By the time the pies were cut for dessert (pumpkin, squash, apple and elderberry & madrone berry pies, oh my!) it felt like one big family in the barn, celebrating Thanksgiving: local food, great farmers and foragers, winemakers and chefs. A wonderful finale to 2008.

Platter of pie

Eat Pie

Thank you to "Culinary Fool" Brenda Pederson for lending use of her beautiful photos from this event for this post. Earlier this season, Brenda started a Flickr pool for Outstanding in the Field photos. You can contribute to and/or enjoy it here.

Where do we put this thing?

Something we don't think too much about when we are on the road... we just park our bus anywhere we happen to be... since we are always moving we are unlikely to overstay our welcome. With very little space in front of Jim's small house in Santa Cruz (you can't see the house if the bus is parked in front) we needed a storage solution. Fortunately our new friend Stanley, a foraging dinner guest (Thanks Stanley!!) offered his Santa Cruz mountain redwood glade for winter storage. Another big adventure for driver Caleb as it is not so easy to take a big bus up up up into the mountains... not to mention get it off road and deep into the woods. Quite a spot to leave the old girl.

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