October 9, 2010

Four Places for U-Pick Pumpkins… From a Farm!

Filed under: In season,Ingredients,Los Angeles,Orange County,Published stories — Professor Salt @ 10:51 pm

Three mini pumpkins at Westminster HS

This story also appears on the OC Weekly food blog.

This time of year, commercial pumpkin “patches” sprout up overnight in asphalt parking lots, replete with enough incandescent lighbulbs to power a cut-rate riverboat casino. Which got me thinking – surely there must be farms in our paved-over county where pumpkins actually grow in the earth? Where can we take the kidlets to pick their own pumpkins off the vine? There’s not many, but here are some more interesting (and cheaper!) options than buying your jack o’ lantern pumpkins at the supermarket.

Westminster High School FFA
You’ve seen their pumpkin patch as you zip past on the 405 freeway. This working farm belongs to the school’s Future Farmers of America program, which sells their harvest of pumpkins and fruit every Wednesday afternoon at the farmer’s market at the Westminster Mall. But once every year, the farm is open to the public during it’s annual Fall Festival. This year, it’s Saturday October 30 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Newly hired faculty instructor Dave Bentz says, “we’ll have pumpkins for sale, face painting, dunk tank, pumpkin carving. The infamous ‘goldfish booth’ is coming back. I wasn’t here for that last year for that, so you’ll have to come to find out.”

Co-instructor Dave Eusantos notes they grow “six varieties of jack o’ lantern pumpkins, including Fairytales and White Ghost pumpkins. We have big ones and little ones for the young kids, ranging from $1 to $5 dollars”

Admission is $5 per person, which includes burgers, dogs, chips and soda. The FFA students man the games booths and the petting zoo (which are not just animals hired for the event, but the farm’s own livestock). All proceeds from the event support the FFA.

Bentz says during the rest of the year, “the public can still can support us by going to the Westminster Farmer’s Market and buying our product. When persimmons ripen, we’ll send those over, also avocados. I teach a floral class, so we’ll be sending our pumpkin-themed flower designs there. Any time someone makes a contribution to the FFA, we’re a tax free organization so it’s a tax benefit.”

Westminster High School 14325 Goldenwest St., Westminster (714) 893-1381
To get to the farm: enter from Goldenwest Street, turn onto Main Street into campus, and follow it past the football fields until you reach the farm.

Tanaka Farms in Irvine

Can’t wait that long to go pick pumpkins? Tanaka Farms in Irvine welcomes the public daily to pick pumpkins from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no admission fee. The Tanaka family has been farming since 1941, and third generation farmer Kenny Tanaka says, “we’ve been doing the pumpkin patch for about 20 years now. It first started off with guided tours around the fields, then developed into wagon rides, petting zoo, corn maze and pick your own pumpkins”

“These days, we’ll drive you over to the field on the wagon, and then it’s self guided after that. We have a 30 acre farm, and you’ll see most of it on the wagon ride. We have baby goats, baby lambs, baby lambs, a couple of llamas in our petting zoo. On weekends, we have games like pumpkin basketball shoots. We’re giving ATV rides, and built a pedal-cart course out in the field.”

Cost for individuals are $3 for the petting zoo, $5 for the wagon ride, and U-pick pumpkins are sold by weight. Kids aged 2 and under are free. A 6-8 pound pumpkin runs $3.25, and there’s a sliding scale from there, up to a 30 pound pumpkin. School and youth groups can arrange for all-inclusive package rates.

The award wining BBQ team from The Rub Company out of Buena Park will be smoking Santa Maria style tri tip and pulled pork on Saturdays and Sundays. Tri-tip and pulled pork sandwiches are $6, hot dogs $3 and BBQ corn $2.50.

Tanaka Farms 5380 3/4 University Dr., Irvine (949) 653-2100 www.tanakafarms.com

South Countians can head over to South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano. They are one of the few local farmers growing organic pie pumpkins, which are sweeter and better suited to baking. They do not  grow jack o’ lantern pumpkins,  so you can’t take the kids for a pick-from-the-field experience.  They truck those in from elsewhere, and you choose from pumpkins set up in their farm stand parking lot. General manager Rebecca says on Saturdays and Sundays, they offer “more old-fashioned activities, like butter churning, and not the ‘carnival-ly’ activities” you’d see at an asphalt pumpkin patch.

South Coast Farms 32701 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano (949) 661-9381 www.southcoastfarms.com

Another one-weekend event, and a big one at that, is  Cal Poly Pomona’s annual Pumpkin Festival and Insect Fair on October 16 & 17. A pancake breakfast is offered only on Saturday from 8a.m. to 11 a.m. There will be thousands of pumpkins in the field. There will be games, a petting zoo, horse rides. Bug out over the College of Agriculture’s display of  500,000 or so insects.

Pumpkins cost $5 each (beach ball size) or 5 for $20 (Oct. 16 & 17 only)
Insect Fair: $6 adults; $4 students and children 3-12 years; 2 and under are free!
Pancake Breakfast (Saturday from 8am – 11am): $5 adults, $4 kids 12 and under
Prices for individual activities such as horse rides and the petting zoo vary.
Organized groups (schools, scouts, etc) can arrange for private U-pick trips the week prior to the festival.

Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Festival and Insect Fair October 16 – 17, 2010. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cal Poly Pomona Farm Store 4102 S. University Drive, Pomona (909) 869-4906
www.csupomona.edu

October 8, 2010

Couscous Festival in Pasadena

Filed under: Los Angeles,Published stories — Professor Salt @ 10:15 am

We’re lucky to have a great many ethnic groups and their native cuisines heavily represented in Orange County, but North African foods aren’t among them.  Sure, I’ve eaten at Moroccan restaurants a handful of times, but I know bupkes about the spices, ingredients and techniques used in North African cooking. So I’m looking forward to a little schooling next weekend in Pasadena.

Chef Farid Zadi runs the Ecole de Cuisine Pasadena and co-organizes the first annual Couscous Festival on October 16 & 17. A French chef born to Algerian Berber parents, he aims to educate restaurant pros and food lovers about the Algerian food culture. As a lamb-loving BBQ guy, I’m especially interested in Zadi’s whole roasted lamb mechoui and house made merguez.

Chef Zadi told me, “I am getting the lamb from small ranches in the Chino/Riverside/Temecula area. The whole lamb will be rubbed on the inside with a mixture of North African spices, herbs, aromatics and extra virgin olive oil. The skin will be rubbed with spices and extra virgin olive oil. The whole beast will be cooked in a smoker for several hours using orange and applewood. It will be served as ‘tacos.’ Basically I adapted all the components (side dishes and sauces) into something that can be eaten as street food.”

Experts in the cuisine will speak,  include clay pot cooking and Mediterranean and North African food expert Paula Wolfert, Clifford Wright, author of Little Foods of the Mediterranean and A Mediterranean Feast, food historian and former L.A. Times food editor Charles Perry, and Faye Levy, author of the International Jewish Cookbook. Check the event website for the seminar schedule.

Festival attendees may purchase their tickets in advance at couscousfestival.com. A $20 ticket includes $15 in food coupons for sampling multiple tagines, Algerian pastries and pizza, Spanish escabeches, Turkish coffee, and of course couscous in its myriad forms.  In addition, many unique regional spices, condiments, and hard to find preserved foods will be available for sale.

Couscous Festival, October 16 & 17 2010
Chefs Center 45 N San Gabriel Blvd, Pasadena. 818-641-6899 www.couscousfestival.com

August 20, 2010

Those Summmmaaahuuuh Naaahaaahhhts

Filed under: Los Angeles — Professor Salt @ 9:07 pm

Tell you more? It’s halfway over already. Each Saturday this August, there’s a party going on in Los Angeles Chinatown. And it’s free to attend.

If you’ve ever been to a trade show in Taichung, Hong Kong, or Guangzhou, you know nobody parties harder than the Chinese. The LAPD might put the kibosh on epic partying, but still…

There will be food trucks (not free), KCRW DJ’s spinning tunes on the iPods, and my pal Eddie Lin from Deep End Dining leading us into who=knows-what sort of exotic Chinese food with chefs from local restaurant Golden Dragon (5pm – 6pm) and Hop Woo BBQ (8pm-9pm).

I’ll be there for the earlier Eddie show. Come out and rediscover Chinatown.

July 15, 2010

DiFara Pizza Coming to L.A.?

Filed under: Elsewhere in America,Los Angeles — Professor Salt @ 9:08 am

According to the the Huffington Post and the New York Post, DiFara’s, the legendary Brooklyn pizza shop, has plans to open outposts in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Texas and Arizona. Am I excited? Hell yes. But also concerned that it won’t be the same thing.

The 42 year old  Dominick Demarco, Jr. has plans to expand on the pizza legend built by his father. But here’s the thing – in the Brooklyn shop, Dom Senior makes all the pizzas himself, and has for decades until recent years when his health hasn’t been so hot. Sure, the Grande cheese and the other ingredients matter, but Dom Senior is what makes DiFara’s so good. Can Dom Jr. teach all the minute steps in the pizza making process to someone else? We’ll see about that.

Also according the the NY Post story, the Baker’s Pride deck ovens used in Brooklyn will be replaced with Wood Stone gas and wood ovens in the new locations. The domed Wood Stones don’t cook the top of the pizzas in the same way as deck ovens. I don’t know what Junior is thinking, but he’s already changing what works.

The NY Post story claims that Dom Junior wants to alter the local water to chemically replicate New York City tap water. The myth that NY pizza or bagels can’t be produced outsite of New York is bullshit, and I proved it during my own bagel baking experiments. See also the fact that Joe’s Pizza in Santa Monica is just like the Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village.  Joe didn’t foist the NYC tap water lie – Joe himself moved to L.A. and taught his staff how to make the dough correctly.  The fact that Dom Junior is already pitching the water myth sounds like he’s setting up an excuse for failing to produce pizza like his old man’s.

So bring it, Junior. I can’t wait to try the pizza, and I’ll be the first one to say I was wrong if you pull this one off.

Next Page »