Thursday, March 24, 2016

Local Tourist: Strawberry Farm Shenanigans


 


Fruit is one of the few things that I've always been a fan of. As a picky eater growing up, I always knew that I could turn to fruit as my option if they were serving things that I wasn't a fan of. Strawberries have always been one of my favorites. I have memories of being a little girl, riding in the back seat of my dad's car and him pulling off into some dusty side stand to pick the best and juiciest strawberries from the baskets presented. There were always samples to be had and my fingers were for sure red and mouth sticky by the time we got back in the car. I loved it. 




To this day I can't help but wonder what the berries are looking like at every stand we pass and being in southern California a 12 month growing season, California strawberries aren't hard to find but can be hard to pass up. My dad is one of those people that can't pass them up and lucky for me if he sees some when he's on his way to my house he'll waste no time scooping them up. Fresh berries are my love language



Last summer our family drove up to San Francisco and we passed through the heart of California farming and many a strawberry field and had so many questions about what went on there.  





 So when I was invited to visit one of the many farms up in Oxnard, CA I was down for the ride. I say "up" because from where I live, it's a nice scenic ride up several freeways.  It was a magnificent California day and I was thrilled to be out of the house and excited for the days adventure. 







We were taken to a local farm owned by the ridiculously guapo Juan Hernandez and he led us on a tour of his land and shared his story about how he came to not only work, but own that farm. 




Did you know that there about 400 family farmers, many like, Mr. Hernandez, are on multi-generational farms and that strawberry farming has given Latinos more ownership opportunities than any other major crop. Crazy right? 



These family strawberry farms help sustain their communities by creating over 70,000 jobs, investing in scholarships for children of field workers and investing 97 cents of every farm dollar back into their communities which is kind of impressive considering what a huge industry strawberry farming is. 







He was wonderfully patient answering all our questions about sustainable farming, water conservation (strawberries require less water less water per acre than an acre of homes in L.A.)  and whether or not pesticides/insecticides were used (they invest millions in non-chemical farming methods which is more than any other commodity group in the world. )











AND he stood totally still while we all zoomed in to get that key photo with both our DSLR and camera phones as well as live video. Cuz that's how we do.



And then, and then, they told us it was okay to pick them. Say what? I can walk over to this GINORMOUS juicy red berry and just plop it off the vine and eat it? Don't mind if I do! 
And I did. At least 12 servings worth. BTW, a serving size is about 8 medium strawberries and has more vitamin C than an orange as well as myriad of other nutrients. So all those times I've stuffed my face with strawberries I was really just doing myself a favor. Good to know. 






750 berries later ( I kid, but not really) we headed over to Hertzog Winery for a lavish strawberry themed lunch where we talked more about the different ways to use the fruit and how strawberries get kind of a bad rap because they're sweet. 




I mentioned how some mom's (myself included) have been shamed for "too sweet/sugary" lunches that contain strawberries and another "sweet" not realizing that although they're naturally sweet, they're low in sugar (only 7 g and 45 calories per cup)! Our resident dietitian hipped me to that fact that I will now use at will. Take that, lunch lady haters! Ha! 




I had no idea that strawberries were grown the way they are and how hard the farmers work towards sustainability and truly being farm to table.



 The growers up in Oxnard take great pride that their crops service strawberry lovers the world over and to see how some of them started from the bottom and now they're here? 
That's my kind of success story.


not quite ready
I seriously had the best time and could have stayed out there for hours. I have mad respect for those that work in the field and those that manage the farms.  Juan was telling us how they handle extreme temps and let's just say it involves being out in the elements in the freezing cold. I'm cool. Thankfully these farmers aren't above getting down and dirty for their crop. 


Another cool thing about CA Strawberries? Their packaging is plastered with photos of actual farmers, growers and their families. Truly making strawberry farming a community effort. 



Our hosts were kind enough to send us home with a flat of berries each! A flat is eight clamshells FULL of my favorite fruit. They doubly blessed me with TWO FLATS. Because I love they spoke my love language and understood how happy they make me. Holy cannoli y'all. That's sixteen ; 1-6; shells of strawberries. My car smelled AMAZING the whole way home and my mind was whirling with all the yummy ways we could make use of all these succulent berries. 

Baby Ninja made quick work of one clamshell as soon as I got home!


Baby Ninja made quick work of one shell as soon as I hit the door and I realized that while I wanted to hoard them, I couldn't in good conscience so I paid it forward and shared them with a few families. Everyone agreed they were/ are the best berries we've ever eaten. I'm just happy I was smart enough to freeze some. Because margaritas y'all. Summer is coming.



What's your favorite way to eat strawberries?




To find out more about CA Strawberries visit www.californiastrawberries.com and to find out more about the farmers you might be buying from check out their blog Heart of Farmers - they've even got recipes to try! 



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Good Eats: Tour de Fork Date Night!






As I was doing a clean up of my phone over the weekend and trying to upload the photos onto my laptop I stumbled across all the pics from our  2015 #DorseySummerofFood . It was fun to scroll through and see all the fabulous stuff we tried and laugh at the randomness of some of the shots. But then I also realized, there were a few that I hadn't posted about here. Sure there were a flood of photos on my Insta but I never actually wrote about my experiences there. 



So I figured, no time like the present as most of these events are coming up again and it would be a good time to try and get a jump on tickets! I got invited to the Tour de Fork at Victoria Gardens and they were gracious enough to include a plus one so I asked my husband on a midweek foodie date.






Unlimited tastings and up to five beverage tastings? What's not to enjoy? The fact that I got to hang out with my guy and continue the birthday celebration was just icing on the cupcake.  It was great because while Victoria Garden's is semi-local, we don't get to hang out there as much as we'd like. 





There were a variety of restaurants and fine dining establishments represented as well as wine and beer for tasting. I love that the whole point is to take people on a culinary adventure and expose them to try foods they maybe wouldn't consider usually.   







Of course we ate ourselves silly and were "those people" taking pictures of all our food. I get some folks are weirded out by all the constant photographing but if I don't document it, how will I be able to share the experience and get other people just as excited as I am? I mean....it was absolutely amazing food! People should know about this! 







One of our favorite burger places, Slater's 50/50 , was there and giving out generous sized samples that we happily destroyed. 



If you don't know about Slater's, well you better ask somebody (or go to their website) and then get yourself down to their establishment, cuz honey, if you like burgers.....you just need to go. Trust me. All I will say is bacon ketchup, bacon salt and bacon in your burger. 
Whoomp there it is. 






 D found a brewery with several beers he liked and quickly took advantage of his beverage tastings.  I took that opportunity to wander off in search of other intriguing epicurean delights. 




While meandering, I found myself a nice glass of rose and made do with that. I wish I remembered the name of the winery I got it from but oh, well, there's always this year! Ha! 




As soon as I saw that N7 Creamery was there I did a happy dance. I had the pleasure of going to a tasting of theirs awhile back with the kids but hadn't yet introduced it to the hubs. 



  I mean! Hello salted caramel goodness! How do you turn that down? This was the first line we encountered the whole evening and while it wasn't super fun to wait and watch other people moan with pleasure the moment the first spoonful hit their lips at that point we were committed. 




It was our last stop before things wound down for the night and D agreed the line was well worth the wait.  There is something about the way they make their ice cream that is just divine. There was a frozen hot chocolate that I sampled as well but the caramel cream was speaking to me. 



If you're a foodie and local to the Inland Empire I would definitely look into getting tickets to this event in 2016. They weren't terribly pricey when you consider all that is included and the variety of dishes and desserts you can try it truly is worth it. We'll definitely be going back this year as it was just too fun to pass up. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Local Hangs: Brunchin Like Whoa






I fully admit to being a little bit anal and OCD about my schedule and my calendar organization. Even if I might forget about an event or two (likely because it was NOT on my calendar or was told to my husband) I am 100% committed to being organized about my activities. And its not like I do SO MUCH all the time, but with kids, shit and last minute birthday parties happen so I do my best to stay on top of things.
In that regard, I've made it a point to schedule out time with friends and family (husband included) as often as my time and budget allow. It makes me feel good knowing I have set times to see people and keeps me accountable. Cuz I'm also a low-key flaker. Because introverted Gemini. I got issues.



Some time last year, my youngest sister-in-love and I were discussing our love of brunch and mimosas and talked up "getting brunch" on a double date. Great! We're so excited and thrilled to be setting this up, but life being what it is, our schedules never panned out. For like 4 months.
So when she KNEW I was setting up my calendar for the year, she reached out to get a date on the books. It only took 6 months of planning and 5 weeks advance notice but suddenly we had a date!
FAAAABUULOUUUS. But where do we go?
We live about an hour apart and the "middle" is really non-existent so we scoured Living Social and Groupon for deals to some of our tried and true spots. But nothing came up.
Finally I crowdsourced my FB peeps and asked for recommendations in the Long Beach area and they.came.through.


That's how I found myself at the James Republic down the street from my former apartment in the heart of Long Beach on a Saturday afternoon.  I was happily surprised to see how the neighborhood has grown since I moved away almost 8 years ago and it helped that the weather was perfect. Sun roof open, windows down, music up.
Hell yeah, it's Saturday.

republic_james


When we walked up to the restaurant we were surprised to see how open it was with the glass sliders wide open and welcoming the warm winter (?) sun. Because we were hella early and beat the brunch rush, we had our choice of seating and opted for a space outside right next to the street so we could see the action.


Our waiter popped in right away and set us up with the obligatory carafe of mimosas because duh. That's the whole point of brunch right? And then I set to really scoping out the joint and I low-key fell in love, and may or may not have announced, "I need to come back here and host a brunch, because this is my scene". Yeah. I was excited about it.


Of course we'd checked out the menu prior to making the reservation but weeks had passed so we had to take a few moments to study it and our lovely waiter was all about answering our questions. We started off with a warm cinnamon roll and it was so freaking good. I don't know what it is about eating by the water that makes everything taste better but it's really a thing.




We finally decided on food and I had the Buckwheat pancakes with salty caramel, pecans and roasted apples topped with a nutmeg whipped cream and she had Carnitas Egg Benedict with sopes, poached eggs and a cilantro lime hollandaise. I'm happy to report her food was equally as delicious as mine. Cuz you know I had a bite. 






Errmiggherrd....it was so good. Like for reals. My pancakes were light and fluffy and the nutmeg whipped cream was straight out of heaven. The salty caramel and roasted apples balanced out the flavor profile and not once did I wish for a vat of syrup to drown my pancakes in. I wouldn't have minded that to dip my bacon in but the salty caramel worked just fine. Oh yeah - I absolutely orded a side of applewood smoked bacon because BACON.

that is nutmeg whipped cream. It was heaven. 



The whole restaurant is set up in a chic and urbane vibe that is slightly eclectic without feeling too hipster and I was totally into it. Edison style light fixtures and slightly rustic looking wood everywhere made it stand out from the neighborhood but not in a way that looks like it's trying too hard. 






Oh and one of the best things? They source their food locally and are all about sustainable living, eating and dining. I'm HERE for it. And for the mimosas. Because those were legit. If you find yourself in the Long Beach area, make a trip to the James Republic part of your itinerary (and let me know if you do!)  you won't regret it. Seriously, our food was amazing and everyone else's looked delicious too. I know cuz, I was checking everything out on my way to the bathroom. 



*This post is in no way sponsored. I just really enjoyed my brunch and wanted to share with y'all. 


































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