Wednesday, March 03, 2010

a locavore's valentine's day


This year, cowboy and I challenged each other to a locavore's Valentine's Day.

All ingredients to come from within a 50 mile radius of either San Jose or Oakland (yes, we gained about 40 miles in the N-S direction that way). Existing pantry items like salt, black pepper, and flour were allowed ("anything that wouldn't be called out in a menu description").

We split up the meal so that he was responsible for entree and I for salad and dessert. Beverage duty was shared.

My ideal salads happen in the summer and fall - heirloom tomatoes and burrata...persimmon and prosciutto. Using my handy fruit and vegetable seasonality calendars from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, I opted for a still unique - but more Bay Area winter-appropriate - selection:
Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad from Gourmet

For dessert, there would be no cute chocolate cupcakes - no cacao trees nearby. I would have to take advantage of what we do have - citrus, nuts, and dairy:
Orange Almond Torte with Orange Sauce and Marsala Cream from Bon Appetit

And finally for drink, while there are certainly plenty of wines to choose from, I had always been intrigued by a certain distillery down in Alameda and its outstanding vodkas:
Kaffir Lime Vodka Gimlet from Hangar One

Trip 1: Berkeley Whole Foods Market. Friday night.
I actually thought I had done such a good job planning my menu that I could just hit up Whole Foods for everything I needed. 1.5 hours later, I had successfully gathered only shallots, butter (Clover Organic, Sonoma County), heavy cream (also Clover), and eggs (Judy's Family Farm, Petaluma). Almonds were unlabeled. Ricotta Salata was from Italy (the cheese guy did not seem amused by my challenge). Limes were from Mexico.

Trip 2: Oakland Grand Lake Farmer's Market. Saturday morning.
This is a pretty big farmer's market, bigger than downtown Berkeley anyhow. I started by circling the market, striking up conversation with the growers. "Where is your farm?" "Outside Fresno." "Where's that?" "Three to four hours." "More than 50 miles?" "More than 50 miles."

I picked up kale from Watsonville (50 mi from San Jose). I discovered Spring Hill Jersey Cheese (Petaluma), and its fantastic pepperjack goat cheese, which substituted just fine for ricotta salata. A kind almond grower from Fresno pointed me towards a Modesto almond farm (closer - around 80 miles - and good enough). Just outside Modesto was also the closest I could get for oranges and ginger. Most of the farmers nodded when I told them what I was doing - I was not the first they'd seen attempt this. Most agreed that 50 miles was ambitious.

Trip 3: Emeryville BevMo. Saturday afternoon.
Aside from picking up my local Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka, I also bought marsala wine (to flavor the whipped cream for the cake) and limes at my last stop. (Confession: totally cheated on these items, as the wine was from Italy and the limes probably from Mexico...)

We ate excellently. Cowboy won points for buying a free-range chicken from Olivera Egg Ranch (and poultry house) in San Jose, which he roasted with locally grown turnips, carrots, onions, and potatoes.