Monday, December 12, 2011
A very generous friend had a wonderful idea for celebrating her birthday:Invite a group of her closest girlfriends to her house for a little tea and crumpets, enough to feel ready to embark on a secret expedition.Code word: sensible, as for : wear sensible shoes.We all pack into 2 cars and head South.Ah beautiful Highway 1 , rolling hills on one side, dazzling Pacific on the other, scraggly coves, eucalyptus groves. The sun is shining bright and the ocean is cerulean.We arrive at Pie Ranch, an organic, educational farm set in a beautiful hillside. I had my own idea of what the secret event was and I turned out to be right.It was an Outstanding in the field event !
After parking, we proceeded up the hill to a meadow, next to gardens, vineyards, chicken coops. A table was set. dispalying beautiful baskets of mushrooms, some mycology books. A bartender was pouring white vine , while staff passed hors d'oeuvres:chilled cauliflower soup with vadouvan ( I had never heard of that "French" curry blend before, but I just looked at a menu of a local SF restaurant and here it was again !) trend alert !
Spoons of pickled radishes and goat cheese, chai infused smoked pears on lavender skewers were paired with that delicious local wine from Monterey.
A mushroom hunting elf proceeded to give a short lecture on local mushrooms, how to find me, what to be careful of, where to find them etc...
Then it was time to set up the hill, direction: the woods to forage for mushrooms, mostly porcini. Some brave souls( through poison oak bushes) came back with smaller versions that we are used to see in the stores or in Europe. But still ! Who knew !
From our vantage point, you could see the ocean below, and as the sun was setting, we made our way back to the barn where dinner was going to be served.
The meal was served family style,always paired with a different local wine.
I am showing 2 out of the 4 dishes served:
a beet salad with walnuts, citrus, pickled garlic and puntarelle, and the desert: a pine needle infused panna cotta with smoked bacon caramel, pine nut toffee.
Both, big bold flavors, with big bold touches.
The night was starry and cold,when we made out way back home, our eyes and stomachs filled with outstanding gratitute.
( click on images to enlarge them )