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Apple Harvest Begins with an Homage to Johnny (Appleseed that is)

While History has an inevitable way of dumbing down the complexity of human nature, most of us have gotten the memo by now that there was more to Johnny Appleseed than we were taught as children - the proto-hippie who wandered the American mid-west barefoot and barely clothed, randomly throwing apple seeds everywhere he went. To my mind the engaging pragmatism of John Chapman’s story is what makes him most fascinating, starting with the fact that far from random his travel routes across Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio were guided by the expectation of settlements spurred by the great migration west.  

When his seeds pushed their way up through marginally tilled hard scrapple dirt and managed, with no irrigation save rainfall, to grow, he fenced them into orchards which he then rented, bartered or sold to new settlers at a time when having a standing orchard of apples and pears was often a prerequisite for claiming ownership of land. 

Another pre-requisite to survival - though more a cultural imperative than a legal one - was the ability to have a cheap and easy way to make hard cider, “the nectar of the frontier.” Yet though he was responsible for propagating most of the wild apples across the mid-west used to make booze, Johnny himself did not drink. Nor did he marry. Nor did he care about possessions, though at the time of his death he was technically a “wealthy” landowner.

Set against the modern model of an entrepreneurial American, though he obviously had a businessman’s brain in that tousled head, grace and salvation, not greed, was what motivated and defined Johnny Appleseed.

Interesting fellow. Even the tin pot he wore on his head was more canny than crackpot - it was simply the easiest way to carry his main cooking implement.

The definition of a wild apple is one propagated only by seed, what we commonly call crabapples. In another lifetime, when wine barrels and cider stills could be found down most dirt roads in Mendocino there was a crazy quilt orchard of crabapples on our ridge, pulled out, along with all our wine grapes, during prohibition. The single crabapple tree that survived probably only got a reprieve because it was near the kitchen garden - Pectin rich, crabapples were often used in jams to thicken them. 

What makes crabapples great for cider is what makes them horrible for eating. They are small and knobby, usually sporting a blemish or three. They are bitter, with very little flesh on them. But oh are they great for developing flavor as they ferment.

 We managed a full case of crabapples this year from our single antique tree, and with a new project looming at the barn that will explore less familiar tastes and aromas in food and wine, I was curious what the kitchen could do with them. The flavor profile is intriguing - tart like a Greening, crisp like a Mac, but without almost any residual sugar. Our long suffering pastry chef Octavio Alcazar (who just got through processing a ton of figs from our harvest which come in all at once) choose to poach them, devising a liquor he hoped would soften the tannins while teasing out more subtle flavors.

He used La Vielle Ferme Recolte, a white Rhône from Chateau Beaucastel, threw in a handful of vanilla beans, lemon peel and bay leaf. This mélange brought out surprising floral notes to the crabapples, while the flesh – the little there was of it - retained a curiously crisp bite. 

Instead of a classic pairing with pork or duck, Chef served a trio of poached crabapples alongside another old-timer making its brief seasonal appearance in the dining room this month, the heavenly Gravenstein. 

The Gravenstein is a very special apple - a cultivar that started its life as a chance seeding in Denmark almost 400 years ago.

Brought over to California by Russian fur traders who landed in Fort Ross in the early 1800’s, Gravensteins took root and thrived in Northern California for generations - especially prolific in Western Sonoma County.  

Sweet yet tart, they are incredibly delicious cooked into pies and sauce, excellent for juice and cider.   

Sadly, because they are difficult to harvest and do not keep well, Gravensteins* were one of many apples that began to disappear with the great American dumbing down of fruit and vegetable varieties which followed the rise of commercial farming - though in this particular case Gravensteins orchards were not pulled out to plant other apple varieties so much as to make way for grapes.

We run through our precious supply of dry farmed Gravs from the ridge pretty quickly, but the week the crabapples made their appearance we were still baking light and fragrant Gravenstein tarts for the dessert menu. Octavio devised a delicately spiced flakey crust, baking the apples until just their edges begin to caramelize. We finish the tart with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar and serve it with a creamy scoop of refreshing Wyeth Acre Goat Milk Ice Cream which I wrote about a few weeks back and is fast become a dining room favorite.  Already a wonderful dessert, the crabapples added a bit of gravitas (sorry, couldn’t resist). 

Gravenstein Apple Tart with Wyeth Acre Goat Milk Ice Cream and Poached Crabapples - our humble homage to the unusual historical figure of Johnny Appleseed- may be gone by the time you read this, but apple harvest is just picking up steam. Pink Pearls and Macintosh arrived this week (along with the first of the Asian pears and red and gold Bartletts) so no worries, our apples will continue to make an appearance in one form or another in the dining room through Fall.

And Daniel and Lukka have once again entered Barndiva Farm in the Mendocino County Apple Fair where we won quite a few ribbons last year. If you’ve never been to a real country fair and you’re in striking distance to Boonville this Sept. 12-14, don’t hesitate. Country Fairs are a great way of supporting family farms, especially young farmers, and of keeping food and sustainable farming traditions alive.

If you can’t make it up to Mendocino in Sept. but crave a taste of apple cider history, come in and sidle up to the bar where Rachel, Sarah and George will be happy to pour you a flight of handcrafted apple ciders made right down the road from us in Sebastopol by the Devoto Family,  organically farming heirloom apples since 1976. One of their ciders is made from 95% Gravensteins.  A real treat, one you can enjoy all year. Come on in and raise a glass to Johnny. 

* While Gravenstein production will never return to Sonoma County in any great numbers, it is now highly sought after thanks in great part to the efforts of The Russian River Slow Food Convivium, who helped get the Grav into Slow Foods vaunted Arc of Taste in 2013.  Wherever you call home, The Arc of Taste is a wonderful thing to support. Learn more about the Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Presidium.



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Dish of the Week.....On the Ridge

Dish of the Week:

Bellwether Farms' San Andreas and Ripe Summer Figs

If you’ve ever traveled through France, Italy, Spain or down into the Mediterranean basin in summer, chances are you’ve eaten at least one meal that included ripe figs and a hunk of local cheese. It’s a classic pairing which has been with us since antiquity. And while a lot has changed when it comes to the finesse we bring to artisan cheesemaking since Plato hung out talking about the notion of an Ideal Universe, the elements which make figs and cheese an indelible pairing remains hard to beat. We all know cheese is great with apples, pears and quince, but only figs, the earthiest of biblical fruits, has the dark sugar and beguiling sensual texture (all those tiny seeds popping on the palate) to stand up and fully embrace the grassy, salty, acidic nature of cheese.

Not a lot of people know that Bellwether Farms was California’s original sheep dairy. This family-run farm brings a level of passion and commitment to their cheese and yogurt program that is truly rare. The story goes that when Cindy Callahan first brought sheep to the ranch she and her husband owned a few miles from the ocean, she had only a vague notion of what to do with them. After a trip to Italy in 1992 they  began to age their sheep milk, producing their first Pecorino, but  it wasn’t until son Liam came onboard that the family began in earnest to experiment with ways to control moisture and acidity which led them to the considerable success they enjoy today. Bellwether produces award winning sheep, cow and goat cheese that consistently exhibits remarkable complexity of flavor that is unique to their location.  We hear a lot of talk about terrior when it comes to wine, but unlike almost any other artisanal product, cheese like Bellwether's truly expresses the taste of milk from animals that are born, raised and grazed in a specific location, in this case the beautiful rolling hills of the Sonoma County Coast only a few miles from the ocean where mild temperatures and coastal fog produce some of the richest and sweetest milk in the land.

Sheep's milk is higher in fat and protein than either cow or goat’s milk, important when you consider that during cheesemaking much of the water is drained from milk with most of the fat and protein staying in the curds. San Andreas is a raw sheep milk farmstead cheese unique to Bellwether Farm. It has the marvelous nutty flavor and soft underlying bite of a good cheddar, but is unusually smooth and full-flavored.

Last week we featured Bellwether's San Andreas with nothing more than a plate of ripe Black Mission Figs, deeply caramelized walnuts, a few shavings of radish and a sprinkling of Calendula flowers.  Now that our own green Napoli figs are finally coming in on the Ridge, (see below) we will offer them while they last. Gray Kuntz has famously described cheese as a taste that pushes, as opposed to pulls, which may explain in part why cheese and figs, with their juicy, sweet mesmeric power, make such a good marriage. As for that other artisanal product that's only gotten better since antiquity...happily, we've got plenty of that around as well at Barndiva,  by the glass or bottle.  Want to talk about an ideal universe? This is a good start.

Harvest On the Ridge

While what we grow on the Ridge hardly puts a dent in the amount of produce Barndiva needs, every year we try to up our game and grow a bit more in hopes of closing the circle of sustainable supply and demand as much as we can. So despite the late frost which knocked out almost all our stone fruit this year, I was pretty proud at the variety of fruit and veg we were able to start harvesting for the restaurant on Tuesday morning, starting with a bumper crop of green and red Gravenstein Apples.  I thought it might be fun to document some of what Vidal and I picked before the fog lifted and the third member of our picking team managed to haul her butt out of bed.

Sadly, with the exception of the cherry toms, the bulk of our Heirloom Tomato crop (33 varieties from Mix Garden) is still hanging green on the vines, waiting for it to get over 55 at night, which Bonnie Z says is the magic number. (According to Bonnie, once upon a time she would start harvesting tomatoes at Dragonfly in early June!)  Looking on the bright side, in addition to the Gravs, Vidal and I managed to pick five cases of incredible green figs, string beans, three varieties of squash, cucumbers, radishes, basil, thyme, lavender, rosemary and the first of the slicing tomatoes. Not bad for a morning's work, especially considering Lukka and Daniel haven't started to harvest anything from their new patch in the pear orchards. Next week it looks like we will have Asian Pears, which Vidal grafted only a year ago, along with Victoria's red pears, and the first of our melons. Fingers crossed about those tomatoes.

To read more about the extraordinary history of the farm:  At the End of the Day, May 26, 2011

In the News

We were especially pleased the Gravensteins came in this week just in time for us to participate once again in Slow Food Russian River's Gravenstein Apple Presidia Project, which the indomitable Paula Shatkin reminds us needs full community participation if we hope to keep the Gravenstein, a unique Sonoma County heritage, alive.  For the next few weeks we encourage you to check out the restaurants in Sonoma County who are participating in the Presidia by putting Grav-centric dishes on their menus. At the very least buy some Gravs at your farmer's market and bake a pie. No excuses, do your part! Save the Gravenstein apple!

For more information go to Slow Food.

And finally, in case you missed it, some very good news from Eastern Europe.

Hungary destroys All Monsanto Corn Fields

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales  (unless otherwise noted)

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Knowing More and More, About Less and Less

(originally posted August 25, 2010) Every year when the kids were little we marked the official end of summer with a blowout weekend at the Mendocino County Apple Fair, held in Boonville. Saturday night we went on all the rides and ate junk ‘til our sides ached; Sunday morning, usually with a strange assortment of hung-over house guests in tow, we somehow managed to slide into the old wooden stands at the fairgrounds with a minute to spare before Guido Pronsolino welcomed the crowd to the start of Sheep Dog Trials. Remember the movie Babe? No animated pig in sight, but the same loyalty, patience, and hushed nail-biting tension ~ even better when it happens in real time.

The County Fair ended up being a hyper version of the pen marks we made on the door frame to show how fast the kids had grown: no sooner did we let go of their hands for a second to reach for the caramel corn than they were shouting over their shoulders, we’ll call you on the cell when we’re ready to leave, disappearing into the fairground crowds just as a few years later they would disappear into their own lives. But hell, that was bound to happen. At least the memories we were making were good ones.

To this day Boonville puts on a proper fair with a parade, a rodeo, sheep dog trials, pie eating contests, a fairground full of rickety (thus exceptionally thrilling) rides, and large exhibition halls filled with every variety of crop grown and animal raised in the county, all spit polished and groomed to what contestants hope is an award winning shine. It was in those 4-H buildings one summer that I first began to understand what a mutually dependent relationship between a farm animal and a human could look like, and where it starts in a young person. You haven’t lived until you’ve spent time with a bright eyed nine year old wearing a green sash who speaks with the authority of someone who can put food on the table.

Growing up in a big city all I’d ever known was the social relationship people have with their pets, starting with the BFF status we invariably confer on them. The relationship between those young future farmers and their animals was different. These were kids who cared for their animals from birth with a matter-of-fact understanding of just how they fit into a farming family’s dynamic. As far as I was concerned the blue ribbons weren’t awards for how perfectly they groomed their animals but for all those early mornings and late nights they’d swept and cleaned and cared for them like their lives depended upon it, which, once upon a time, it did.

The Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Fair isn’t associated with 4-H ~ it’s just a wonderful community event now in its 100th year with the big green heart of a Gravenstein apple, which Sebastopol, with the help of Slow Food, is trying to bring back from the verge of extinction. So I wasn’t expecting a real county fair experience when I set out to go two weeks ago with a group of friends. We wanted to hear great bluegrass by John Youngblood & Company and eat Gravensteins to excess. We scored on both counts: Just as the sun came out John played an incredible set on a stage beneath a giant canopy of spreading oak trees. We ate apple pie, apple fritters, and (in my case, at least) drank copious amounts of hard cider. We saw a display of very old tractors and tried out ingenuous farm tools that had never been patented (some, like the recumbent bike that cut useless roundels out of redwood trees, for obvious reasons). It wasn’t until a much needed trip to the port-a-potties sent me to the furthest corner of the fairgrounds that I found that animals had, in fact, been invited to the party.

Sebastopol is not deep country, not anymore, so it was understandable that the animals on display weren’t many, but it was hard to miss the fact that not one of them would ever end up on the dinner table anywhere. There were cashmere sheep with Jean Tierney eyes, llamas groomed like large exquisite poodles, and miniature donkeys that had been saved from a coal mine ~ I’m assuming somewhere far from Sebastopol. Had I inadvertently stumbled upon the Jonathan Safran-Foer collection of farm animals?

Safran-Foer, in case you somehow missed it last year, is the author of Eating Animals, a passionate and highly personal rant on why he believes the human diet should not contain animal proteins. Safran-Foer is a wonderful writer ~ Everything Is Illuminated, his first book, was a tour de force ~ but in Eating Animals he bullies the reader in much the same way a Jehovah Witness arrives at your door with the ‘either/or’ option of accepting their version of religion or going to hell in a handbag. I have no doubt that expanding one’s vegetable diet would be good for the planet, if not for our health, but there is a big difference between making the decision not to eat animal proteins and an insistence that everyone else make the same commitment ~ which would mean, by extension, that we stop raising animals for food.

Michael Pollan tackles many of the same issues In Defense of Food as Safran-Foer does in Eating Animals, but manages to reach an inclusive endgame ~ he believes that through shared community values that directly effect the marketplace we can still make profound changes in the way food is produced in this country. The first step is to become more thoughtful eaters. The little I managed to read of Safran-Foer’s book struck me as guilt driven, written by a man so petrified by the idea of raising healthy children in a messed up world (and who isn’t) he’s gone into the wall building business: this side of the wall (vegetarians only) is good, that side (the rest of us) is bad. It’s the kind of thinking that can only serve a divisive agenda, creating antagonistic groups of people who, while they certainly differ on eating habits should be waging the same war when it comes to fighting for respectful, responsible stewardship of the earth. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Even if we put aside the case that the human race is predisposed to being carnivorous ~ we ignore at our peril that we have only made it this far in history by a profound reliance upon domesticated animals. A lot has gone wrong with that seminal relationship in the last century, starting with the way we treat animals in the corporate food system that by and large replaced them with machines. But if we can find our way back to it, a culture of mindful animal husbandry holds many answers to the real complexity of farming well. And, as Wendell Berry writes in so many of his wonderful books, there is real complexity to farming well.

Look, there’s little doubt that dependence on machine based agriculture and overdependence on the chemicals their use has engendered has lead us to where we are today ~ mired in the wrong kind of shit, the kind that fertilizes nothing. But the historic relationship between farmer and animal, which should be built upon respect born out of mutual dependence, goes hand in hand with a natural cycle that could provide a roadmap to re-claiming ecological (and quite possibly psychological) health. The widespread soil erosion, toxicity and decay we’ve seen with the rise of mono-culture mega-farms that have proliferated in the last fifty years have gone hand and hand with the destruction of our rural communities, the direct result of not having what Berry’s friend Wes Jackson calls the “right ratio of eyes to acres.” These are issues that cannot be addressed in any meaningful way if we eliminate the central dynamic of personal farming that has animals at its center.

I had a good time at the Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Fair with my friends, but I left feeling like it was a bit of a lost opportunity. County Fairs have the potential to embody two essential American traits we are fast losing: inventiveness and the ability to admire accomplishment based on hard work, not luck or the hubris that often comes with fame. Walking around a crowd-filled fairground isn’t the same as walking around a crowded mall ~ the mall is a sales construct that teaches us nothing, it exists with the sole purpose of selling a false sense of security. Programmed to replicate the same controlled experience over and over again, all it can inspire is a faster technological response to a shrinking list of stimuli. When are we going to wake up and see that all technology has thus far afforded us is the ability to know more and more about less and less?

A County Fair is an opportunity to have a unique experience with people you can choose to recognize as your community. It’s about hand-grown food, and hand-made craft. Not all of it’s good, of course, but if you don’t like the apple pie at one stand, there is another one a few steps away touting a different family’s recipe. Pies at small County Fairs aren’t flavor profiled by a chemist in some food lab a thousand miles away, their taste testing was done in kitchens like yours just up the road where dogs and kids wander in and out and the oven door has a loose hinge. No doubt every generation had added something to the mix, but they still call it Grandma’s Recipe because, at heart, it still is.

With or without the kids, I’m going to the Boonville Fair this year. I long for that smell of hay with a hint of cow manure you get the minute you step out of the car, full moon rising, into the big field that serves as a parking lot and head off towards the fairy lights of the fairground. At some point the smell of cotton candy takes over, but it’s nice to get a whiff of the real smell of a place, before that overlay of sugar kicks in.

LINK The Mendocino County Apple Fair in Boonville is September 17-19th. Rodeo is Saturday Night. Sheep Dog Trials start at 10 am Sunday.

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Happy Birthday Baby

(originally posted July 14, 2010)

Seven years ago, the day before we opened Barndiva for the very first time, we hosted an unforgettable interactive art exhibit celebrating the work of ten renowned local food producers. Each food artist was paired with two other artists: one to document their work, the other to interpret it. The interactive part was that we invited guests to “eat the art” while they experienced it. 300 old friends, new neighbors, journalists, vintners, and tout Healdsburg descended upon the barn on a warm and sunny Saturday in July expecting to be wowed. We wowed them. Who could resist the heady perfume of art, food, wine and music, all served up in a beautiful new building on a perfect evening at the height of summer?

The entire day was our business plan writ large, with the central proposition that diva’s don’t just live in opera houses. When it comes to food there are people who hit the high notes every day of their lives in vegetables fields, olive orchards, dairies, bakeries... even restaurants shaped like barns. There was a sense that day, articulated by almost everyone who was here, that something exciting was gaining momentum in Healdsburg; that Barndiva was only part of a zeitgeist that was happening in our town, and towns like ours (which admittedly is not many) across the country. The term ‘farm to table’ didn’t mean what it does today; the concept of ‘artisan’ had only recently begun being applied to something you’d find on a plate in a restaurant. The adoration we lavished on our food savants felt new and exciting, an homage to hand made and home grown that felt wholly warranted and fully our own.

It was the greatest opening party Barndiva could have imagined. Of course we needed the good will, inexperienced as we were, to get through that first tumultuous year. And we were thrilled to have pulled off an exhibit of such great complexity to launch our business. But what we were most proud of was the $16,000 we helped raise with Slow Food Sonoma County, our partners for the event, to be spent on a program that would bring sustainable farmers to the kitchen doors of Healdsburg Public Schools to provide for their lunch programs.

Paul Bertolli, already contemplating Fra Mani, the next great act in his remarkable culinary career, arrived first with homemade salumi he’d cured in his basement in Berkeley. He had been paired with the artist Ismael Sanchez, who fashioned a life size homage to the dead pig out of rusted wire, and with Evan Bertoli, his nephew, a classmate of our daughter Isabel and a budding photographer. The group vetting the artists with me had concerns that a boy as young as Evan could pull off work that would raise significant money at auction, but one look at the image he took of Paul’s beautiful hand slicing through a sheaf of snowy white pork fat put that fear to rest: it was haunting, fully capturing the skill Paul brings to the art of charcuterie.
And so it went, with virtually every collaborative exhibit: Lou Preston’s wine was exhibited alongside Susan Preston’s installation piece of a single worn blue kitchen chair sitting, as if floating, on a mound of flour with a jug of their Guadagni on the floor. Ig Vella brought huge rounds of cheese and a lifetime’s worth of craft in his worn and irascible smile. Elissa Rubin Mahon stacked a dozen of her jams in an old wood box by the front door where they sparkled like jewels in a Bulgari window. John Scharffenberger sent slabs of different grades of chocolate and huge bags of chocolate nibs which we poured on a wine barrel below Michael Recchiuti’s accompanying ‘canvas’ of hand poured chocolate upon which he had painted a shimmering, incandescent barn. The smells of Olive Oil and Honey and Bread and Peaches ~ all other exhibits ~ filled the air, mingling with the laughter and music and talktalktalk.
One of the artisan producers I’d personally invited to participate was Karen Bates of the Philo Apple Farm. Though the focus of the exhibit was the artisan bounty from Sonoma County, Slow Food understood that as a family we intended to draw from a sustainable food shed that started in Mendocino County where we own a farm on the Greenwood Ridge. Our place is directly above Karen’s; her family and ours have been nearest neighbors and friends, raising our kids together, for going on 30 years. Karen’s artisan product, her ‘art,’ as it were, was the ‘mother’ starter she used for the farm’s infamous apple cider vinegar, made from organic heirloom apples that grow on their 40 acres along the Navarro River. I had only ever seen yogurt or bread starters before so Karen’s massive disc of fulminating bacteria blew me away.

Karen has chosen the artist Laura Parker to document her work and towards that end Laura has spent many hours at the farm that spring photographing apple trees in full blossom. She then transferred 55 images onto fabric panels that on the morning of the exhibit she slung across the entire rear of the barn. It was a gorgeous body of work. Remarkably, she’d taken an inherently flat, captured image and given it back the life it once had out in the fields. Karen and Laura are good friends, which you could tell from the way their pieces played together. There was also something wonderfully incongruous between the mothership starter floating in a huge glass bowl of rust colored cider, and these ethereal blossoms, splashing sunlit patterns through the air, moving like a curious school of butterflies, hovering, but with no intention of landing.

Laura and I connected that day, talked briefly, then lost touch, except for infrequent emails about our respective openings. From hers I gleaned that she was mixing up her time between fine art, highly sought after pastel images of fruit and vegetables (presently on exhibit in Studio Barndiva), and interactive work which sounded more experiential than performance. It wasn’t until she sent something about a new project called Taste of Place that I started playing closer attention.

 

Taking the current interest in terroir out of the vineyard and bringing it to the farm, Laura was making the case that everything we eat, not just wine we drink, has a indelible fingerprint connecting it with the soil it is grown in. She visited farms and tramped around, meticulously labeling soil samples, which she then put into wine glasses for folks to smell and discuss. She only used dirt from sustainable farms (fyi: soil becomes dirt when you take it away from where you find it). She didn’t ask anyone to taste the dirt (though some did) but she made the case that by smelling deeply we are in fact tasting: scientifically that’s what happens on the sides of our tongues when we salivate, the result when something piquant ~ in this case dirt with a little water added ~ hits our olfactory senses. What she found from the first few interactive shows was that often just the smell of dirt played a strange alchemy on memory. It can bring back a moment in time when we were very young, before dirt was just something to wash off. Sound implausible? Maybe, but this is exactly what happened to Geoffrey at the Taste of Place lunch Laura put on at the Boonville Hotel in 2008.

I have a long history with the Boonville Hotel: I was among the second round of investors when the restaurant was in its glory, and it provided my first real connection to Anderson Valley. Ironically, given what I do now, it also exposed me to a style of country dining I’d only ever seen in Europe, where it’s not unusual to see some of the food you are eating growing or frolicking in the fields beyond the dining room windows. The hotel is now owned by Johnny Schmitt, Karen’s brother, a wonderful cook who had worked with Laura and her farmers to create a soil-paired meal I had no intention of missing. My husband thought otherwise. On the day of the lunch, with temperatures already climbing over 80, it was all I could do to get him in the car.

The first thing that strikes you when you experience Laura’s Taste of Place is how different the soils look when you are able to study and compare them, side-by-side. Some soils are deep and rich, while others look almost too thin to support growth of any kind. Some are rocky, with bits of granite, some smooth as silt, several so light and airy they seem to be crawling up the sides of the glass.

There are two ways of describing what happens after that. The first is to take a page out of wine Terroir vernacular (albeit tongue and cheek) as indicated from crib notes Laura and Karen wrote about the Philo Apple Farm.

Philo Apple Farm – Flood Plain, Navarro River District. Unlike the Indian Camp Ground variety, flood plain has a yellow mustard color. It's texture is hard and clod like. A bit less exotic in aroma, but more varietal, with olive and mineral notes, and a bit weightier finish. The nose here is clay and smoky with huge extract and extraordinary elegance.

Then there is the way Geoffrey experienced Taste. First he stuck his long aquiline nose into a glass of “Indian Campground: Arrowhead Reserve” and inhaled deeply. Then he furrowed his brow, closed his eyes, sighed. “This brings me right back to our coal cellar in London when I was 5." He looked up at Laura and smiled. “It’s the smell of anthracite and moisture. God, I spent hours playing down there, with this smell in the air.” Later, in the car on the way up to the farm he remarked that he hadn’t thought about those years for a long, long time.

It is amazing to me, and quite wonderful indeed, that after seven years we are still talking about the sanctity of the soil here at Barndiva. Since Ryan arrived the idea behind “eat the view” has taken on even greater meaning. It’s not just a nifty tag line for our patrons anymore, but embedded deep within their enjoyment of everything we surround them with here at the Barn. With inspired cooking, as with bio-dynamic farming, it's hard to know where the passion ends and the science begins. A growing part of me feels we may be seeing the beginning of a thoughtful re-consideration of why food tastes the way it does, which could even lead us to a reappraisal of the very concept of nourishment. There is now talk about Secondary Metabolites in plants which, while they have probably been around since the beginning of time, are only now being studied for the possible secrets they hold in protecting the plants that produce them. If we are ever able to unlock that connection, they may someday be able protect us as well.

These are exciting times to be considering taste and how it applies to farming practices and food. What’s most incredible is the fact that this new frontier has been here all along, where it’s always been, right beneath our feet.

If you missed our opening party seven years ago, now is your chance to share an historical evening at Barndiva. If you were here for The Taste of Art, thank you for your continued patronage. We hope to share A Taste of Place with you in August.

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