LIVE EARTH GOES TO SCHOOL
BY KALIA FELDMAN-KLEIN
It’s a typically foggy coastal morning, but this does nothing to dampen the spirits of the 30 tots who are poised to embark on a sensory treasure hunt at Watsonville’s Live Earth Farm.
“Okay, when I say go, I want you to find one thing to taste, one thing to touch, and one thing to smell between here and the top of the hill,” invites Jessica Ridgeway, the director of Live Earth’s Discovery Program.
And with that the preschoolers burst off, beginning their hunt by ducking underneath some leafy grape vines to search for the season’s last deep blue clusters. Navigating a farm-within-a-farm replica of Live Earth set up just for them, the children eventually milk goats and visit chicken coops, alternately squealing with delight and glancing back at mom and dad for reassurance. Over time, these children and parents from El Jardin, a local cooperative preschool, and dozens of families from other local schools, will learn what goes on at a sustainable organic farm each season, and why it matters.
Live Earth’s founders, Tom and Constance Broz, have led adventures like this since they started the farm in 1985 with the hope of helping to better connect their community to the environment through organic agriculture. In 2007, Live Earth formalized the educational tours into a nonprofit organization that uses the farm as a classroom to teach local school groups about organic and sustainable food systems. Constantly evolving, the reach of both the farm and its nonprofit have grown remarkably; the farm’s CSA now serves 700 area families, and the Discovery Program educates more than 1,000 local kids each year.
New this winter, Live Earth will take its programs off the farm to visit local children right in their classrooms. Ridgeway and the Brozes would prefer that the students experience the farm and its lessons firsthand. But transportation budget cuts made four years ago at the Pajaro Valley Schools have meant that area public school children are often unable to go on otherwise free educational field trips unless there are enough parent drivers to ferry an entire class. In a community of mostly working parents like Watsonville, this is a big obstacle. Live Earth raises funds to help subsidize transportation to the farm, but the new school visits will enable the farm to reach even the kids whose schools just can’t manage the trip.
Whether at the farm or at schools, Ridgeway tailors her curriculum to the age and ability of each group she works with. But with all of the children, the Discovery Program operates on the selfsustaining theory of a triple bottom line, which strives towards a food system that is financially, socially and environmentally just. To teach these concepts, she combines hands-on farm work and lessons that follow our food from seed to table. She also encourages the kids, their teachers and their parents to taste for themselves how delicious food that is healthy for both the planet and their bodies can be. “Our goal is to train consumers, farmers and everyone in between about sustainable food systems,” Ridgeway says.
For the youngest kids, the simple experience of being on the farm itself introduces these ideas. Older students learn more in-depth lessons about our food system. One lesson traces a dollar spent at the grocery store to illustrate all the people and processes involved in our food system, and how a dollar spent locally stays local.
Luckily for its young participants, the Discovery Program won’t end with the school year. This summer, Live Earth will host weekly summer camp sessions for six to 12 year olds, and offer leader-intraining positions for older teens called “Art on the Farm.” Campers will divide their time between nature-based art, farming and learning how to create nutritional snacks from their freshly harvested produce. The sessions will culminate with a campout in the fields.
If you’d like to make a donation to Live Earth’s Discovery Program, it’s best to use the organization’s donate button on its website, at www.liveearthfarm.net/learn.aspx. Donations of up to $5,000 made before the end of 2011 will be matched by a fund created by Live Earth’s supporters.
At Sones Cellars in Santa Cruz, Rachel Morphy refills her
bottle with the winery’s popular Hedgehog Red blend.
Photo by Deborah Luhrman.
BY AMBER TURPIN
When you hear the word “keg,” you most likely picture red plastic cups, beer bellies, rowdiness or memories of high school parties of yore. But in the last few years, the term has started to find a home with a quite different audience. Wine on tap is becoming more and more commonplace at cafes, wine bars and upscale restaurants throughout the country.
The idea is nothing new—wine served and sold in bulk actually has a longer history than today’s commonplace 750-milliliter bottle. A wide variety of containers from barrels to wineskins have been utilized to hold the prized juice since its creation.
But now, advancements in technology and storage stability, and an increased environmental vigilance on the part of consumers and producers alike, have opened the door to a whole new lineup of alternative wine service formats. And lucky for us, it’s catching on here in the Monterey Bay region.
Santa Cruz County wine tasting typically means back roads, hairpin turns and mountain vistas, but the Surf City Vintners collective came along and introduced everyone to a more urban experience. Located at the Swift Street Courtyard on the Westside of Santa Cruz, the dozen wineries that make up Surf City offer a wide range of tasting profiles. Two in particular also provide a new way to serve them.
Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard is one of the first winemakers in the county to offer wine on tap. The method is advantageous to restaurants serving by-the-glass wines because of the extended shelf-life capacity, and there is a tremendous reduction in packaging and waste due to no bottle, no cork and no labeling. Right now, you can find Emery’s Bobcat Red blend at Main Street Garden Café in Soquel, and hopefully more venues as word spreads.
Sones Cellars, next-door neighbor to Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, has begun to offer wine in a similar way, but by spigot instead of tap. Its Hedgehog Red blend, primarily composed of Zinfandel grapes, fills a large barrel in the winery’s tasting room. Buy an empty, specially labeled Hedgehog stopper bottle and then fill ’er up. Return when it’s all gone and get a refill at a discounted bulk price.
This has become a popular table wine for a lot of folks, and like many of the other alternative formats, produces less waste and should leave a smaller carbon footprint than the production and shipping of traditional wine bottles.
But the local trend is not limited to Santa Cruz alone: Monterey and San Benito County fruit is ending up in a variety of vessels near and far.
Calera Wine Company in Hollister, for example, is offering its Central Coast Pinot by the keg.
Meanwhile, FLASQ Wines, a company based in St. Helena, Calif., offers from its website 12-packs of aluminum bottles containing Monterey Chardonnay. The bottles hold just two glasses’ worth of wine, but they’re reusable and American made. And Black Box Wines, a company aiming to create an upscale packaged wine market, sells a Monterey County Chardonnay in a 3-liter—you guessed it—black box.
If all of this is making you curious, you can be sure that a multitude of alternative format wines are out there just waiting to be poured—from everything but that 750-milliliter bottle.
FILL ’ER UP
Top left: Amber Turpin and David Stimpson in front of Filling Station.
Photo by Terry Manier.
Top right: Life-long friends Ana Melissa Garcia and Erika Olivarez.
Photo by Terry Manier.
Bottom left: Fran Grayson getting ready for the rush at Truck Stop.
Photo by: Ted Holladay.
Bottom right: The Bakery Station.
Photo by Kalia Feldman-Klein.
BY KALIA FELDMAN-KLEIN
Did you hear about that new bakery-café, Filling Station? What was that? The Bakery Station? The Truck Stop? Are they the same place? The answer is, no: They’re three totally different yet equally vibrant ventures.
But you’d be forgiven if you got them mixed up: All three are located at repurposed, early 20th century gas stations, and all three are run by ace cooks and community-minded visionaries. They also each offer up food that you don’t normally associate with gas stations: fresh, seasonally driven fare cooked with local, organic ingredients.
At Santa Cruz’s Filling Station, owners Amber Turpin and David Stimpson grow the ingredients for many of the treats they serve, like homemade mint, grapefruit and apple sodas and warmfrom- the-oven fruit and vegetable hand pies.
Outside, Turpin and Stimpson’s friend and business partner Fran Grayson offers a Latin American menu with an Asian flair from her food truck, The Truck Stop. Favorites are breakfast tacos and arepas—fried cornmeal cakes filled with meat and vegetables. In Salinas, The Bakery Station, run by Ana Melissa Garcia and Erika Olivarez, delivers an array of artisan breads and pastries as well as spectacular sandwiches, like the Road Hog—a pulled pork number with a tangy whiskey sauce on a house-baked brioche roll.
The Bakery Station: 202 Monterey St., Salinas, www.bakerystation.com • Filling Station: 1500 Mission St., Santa Cruz, www.fillingstation1500.com • The Truck Stop: in front of Filling Station, www.thetruckstopsc.com.
BARKING UP A NEW TREE
From left: Eco-Deli’s Beer Bark flatbread,
Jeff Dubin and his merlot tea.
Photo by Deborah Luhrman.
BY DEBORAH LUHRMAN
You might call it food from the future. A Salinas man is embracing the ecologist’s mantra “reuse, repurpose, recycle” and inventing new foods made from the byproducts of local artisan beer and wine making. Hidden away in a corner of an old airplane hangar at the Marina airfield, former sculptor Jeff Dubin has built a top-secret test kitchen where his studio used to be. He turned his kiln into an oven and started mixing batches of flatbreads, teas and vinegars.
“At this time in my life I just wanted to do something that is fun, useful and creative,” he says. So he founded Dubiansky’s Eco- Deli and is working to market his first product—a flatbread called Beer Bark.
Beer Bark is a deliciously crunchy cracker—but surprise! It’s made with malted barley and brewer’s yeast left over from the alemaking process at Carmel Valley Brewing. Usually these byproducts would be composted, but Dubin is trying to give them a new life as what he calls “sustainable haute cuisine.”
“Our local brewers and winemakers use only the best ingredients, so there’s an enormous amount of high-quality flavor and nutrition left in these byproducts,” says Dubin, who studied biochemistry in college and currently bakes at Claudio’s Specialty Breads in Castroville.
Beer Bark is a high-fiber, high-protein flatbread, with the slightly sweet flavors of malt and yeast. Encrusted with roasted sesame and sunflower seeds, it has wowed the tastebuds of people who have sampled it at Montrio Bistro in Monterey and at its debut at the Monterey Beer Festival in October.
Eco-Deli joins a small but dedicated group of businesses in the Monterey Bay area that are committed to making the most out of bountiful local harvests. Carolyn Swanson’s Pacific Grove company, Gnarly Nature Organic Produce, for example, supplies local restaurants with fruits and vegetables that are just too ugly to sell to consumers, but work fine in soups or sauces. Others rescue fruit from neglected orchards, like Colleen Logan’s Carmel-based Savor, for which she cooks up low-sugar, fruit-forward jams, and the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, started by Steve Schnaar, which produces cider, chutney and other canned treats.
Dubin, who grew up in New York City, had been thinking about all the wasted produce left behind as the fields around Salinas are picked. At the same time he was reading a book called Save the Deli by David Sax about the demise of the family-owned Jewish deli in America.
“I come from an Eastern European Jewish heritage, where my grandma and great aunts used to cook up a storm. They had that European ethos that comes from poverty and used every tidbit of food to make something,” he says.
The concept for the Eco-Deli line of products all came together for him during a tour of Carmel Valley Brewing, led by Monterey Peninsula College culinary teacher Paul Lee. There he saw used vats of valuable malted barley, which had been heated up and macerated in water for only an hour at the start of the 13th century-style alemaking process used by the brewery. It was a light bulb moment.
In addition to Beer Bark, Dubin has developed a Chardonnay reduction molasses and a tea made from the roasted grape skins and seeds left over from the winemaking process.
The merlot tea, for example, is a pretty rosé color and has a pleasant fruity taste.
He’s also experimenting with making vinegar from wine pomace, and baking up a bialy—a bagel-like staple of New York delis— using more malted barley from the brewery and perhaps the addition of mashed olives left over after the oil is extracted.
With a test kitchen full of unusual gleaned ingredients and a head full of ideas, the Eco-Deli is set to take off…just like the small planes that share that old airplane hangar.
“We’re seeing a slight dip in yield, with smaller grapes
and clusters, but the quality of the fruit is phenomenal, and
I’m really excited about the vintages that we’ll be seeing.”
– Dean De Korth, winemaker at Bernardus
Morgan Winery’s Double L Vineyard
BY PETE RERIG
It’s early November in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and there’s a flurry of activity on the 49 acres of the Double L Vineyard, home of Morgan Winery. Pickers move down row after row of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Reisling grapes, plucking fat bunches from the vines. Trucks ride along the dirt roads, loading up hundreds of containers ready for transport to the winery’s facility in Salinas, where they’ll be pressed and most will be placed into French oak barrels where they will be transformed into award-winning wines.
It’s a scene going on throughout Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, and yet it’s unusual. Why? Because it’s happening so late. We’ve had odd weather this year, but local winemakers are cautiously optimistic about what the season’s unusual climatic curveballs will yield when the wines emerge from their barrels anywhere from nine months to two years from now.
“The picking is usually wrapped up by now,” says Kristina Banks, marketing coordinator for Morgan Winery. “But we’ve had a longer growing season and more rain than we’re accustomed to from a typical year.” So far, Banks notes, all seems fine at the Double L Vineyard, which was the first in the Santa Lucia Highlands American Viticultural Area to garner both “Certified Organic” and “Certified Sustainable” recognition.
“The cool spring and summer slowed ripening but we were not worried,” says proprietor and winegrower Dan Morgan Lee. “With a smaller crop, healthy, organic vines and the warm weather we experienced in October, the ripening process had the opportunity to advance nicely.”
At Bernardus Winery in Carmel Valley, the harvest and its potential impact on this year’s vintage was a hot topic at the winery’s annual wine dinner on Oct. 21. (See related story on the EMB blog at www.ediblemontereybay.com.)
Bernardus winemaker Dean De Korth sees no problems for this year’s harvest, and is in fact expecting a banner year. “We had a slow start to the season with those late spring rains, but the recent warm and clear weather has been great,” says De Korth. “We’re seeing a slight dip in yield, with smaller grapes and clusters, but the quality of the fruit is phenomenal, and I’m really excited about the vintages that we’ll be seeing.”
Judy Schultze at boutique winery Windy Oaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains echoes De Korth’s sentiments, reporting late harvests of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes due to the cooler summer, as well as lower yields due to a late fruit set in May of 2010. “We also had some minor mold issues from the summer rain, but dealt with them quickly,” says Schultze, who with her husband Jim is also looking forward to a year of super high-quality vintages.
Mike Waller, winemaker at Calera Winery in Hollister, is also confident about this year’s harvest. “We’re on our second year of plentiful rain, and the weather has been cool but sunny at just the right time,” says Waller. “Fortunately for us we didn’t see any frosts during bud break, and we had great growth in springtime. The only thing we saw was a bit of shatter during bloom and heavy mildew pressure, but we were able to keep it under control, and we’ve had great fall weather to get us to the finish line. I’m finding that our grapes are coming in with higher acid, but they’ve reached that magical ripening point.”
Carl Alasko with his daughter, Ariele Alasko.
Photo by Deborah Luhrman.
BY DEBORAH LUHRMAN
“Our recipes are very simple…
We start from scratch everyday, so everything is fresh.”
A newcomer to the Pacific Grove restaurant scene, il vecchio restaurant has made sustainability something of an art form. The already popular trattoria, just opened in August, is decorated almost entirely with reclaimed and salvaged materials collected and artistically assembled by the owner’s daughter.
The first thing you notice on entering is the warmth that comes from old barn wood-clad walls, a gleaming oak bar, an enormous Carmel stone fireplace and glowing chandeliers made from rusted industrial mixers.
“We wanted to give the restaurant a patina, and the fact that everything already comes with a history adds so much,” says 24-yearold artist Ariele Alasko, the daughter of owner Carl Alasko—a local psychotherapist and columnist for the Monterey Herald.
Ariele is a graduate of Monterey High School. She moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute and settled in Brooklyn where she builds furniture from scavenged materials. The bar at il vecchio, for example, is built from old oak kneelers that she rescued from the basement of a Lutheran church in Brooklyn just before they were sent to the dump.
Last March, Ariele and a friend made a cross-country trip in a 16-foot rental truck loaded with her finds from Brooklyn. They collected more furniture and materials on the way. Then she worked for more than five months—day and night—to create the restaurant’s interior.
The menu was a collaboration with another daughter, Saroja, who lives in Rome, and her friend Luciano Flamini—owner of Rome’s renowned trattoria Maccheroni. It features pastas made inhouse with organic flour and eggs, topped with the highest-quality fresh ingredients. One of the favorites comes from the mountains of Abruzzo east of Rome, Pappardelle con ragù d’agnello, lamb slowcooked in red wine and served with house-made, wide-cut pasta.
“Our recipes are very simple. Nothing is pre-prepared, and nothing is frozen. We start from scratch everyday, so everything is fresh,” says Carl Alasko, whose last restaurant adventure was an Indian place in Rome some 38 years ago.
Il vecchio (the old one in Italian) also serves authentic Italian entrees and desserts, and has an exciting wine list that combines local and Italian labels—all with reasonable prices that reflect the restaurant’s ambition to be a fun, family experience.
il vecchio • 110 Central Avenue • 831.324.4282 • www.ilvecchiorestaurant.com