• Timber & Salt Year 3: Finally (Really) Using the Garden / Farm

    Hi there. We are “back” after a long, work-induced pause in our blogging. We are planning to blog again more regularly and hopefully post new things from the farm and some “greatest hits” from our restaurant, Timber & Salt. (Timber & Salt is in the awesome town of Redwood City, in Silicon Valley, btw).

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    Isaac’s Wild Oregon Cod with Butter Bean Ragout, a very good dish from earlier this winter.

    In any event, we are well into our third year running Timber & Salt. Happily we can say the food, drinks and service have never been better. We are very busy, reviews are good and the business is a going concern- so we aren’t going anywhere. Just the other day Brian Matulis, our bar manager / partner, and I realized that we have already lasted well beyond the expected “expiration date” of most new restaurants. We enjoyed that for about five seconds and then got back to work.

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    Melanie Ralston- one of Brian’s more popular creations (Vodka, Bonal, Cherry Heering, lime)

    So how did we get to our third year? After a good, but somewhat frantic “bumpy” start, operations at the restaurant finally started to get truly “settled” late in our second year. We brought on Isaac Miller, an experienced chef from a critically acclaimed restaurant in San Francisco called Maven. (Not surprisingly, Maven specializes in seasonal California cuisine that compliments craft cocktails…sound familiar?) Isaac’s management of the kitchen complimented Brian’s already successful bar program and we finally got the restaurant close to what we imagined when we started this project over five (!) years ago.  And that feels pretty good, but there is one big thing left to address.

    You see we have this “Farm”.  At one point it was a really a big garden. But over the last few years we have an experienced friend (Daniel) helping us, and the garden has expanded to the point that it is getting truly “farm-like”. When you have 30+ fruit trees, 10 raised beds, and 4 large open plots, all on a schedule- it starts to feel like a farm (large, organized garden?). And when you have a farm and a restaurant, well, you want to serve up some of that fresh, seasonal, local produce in innovative, tasty dishes and cocktails.

    Not to say we haven’t been using produce from the farm at Timber & Salt for the last few years, we have. In no particular order, we consistently use our Meyer lemons, lime leaves, mint, chives, thyme and basil in both the bar and kitchen. We also get lovely “spurts” of tomatoes, squash, greens, onions, radishes, strawberries and stone fruits that make for great eating (and, in some cases, drinking). But overall, the availability of our produce has been inconsistent, at best.

    But this year, weather permitting, we have a plan. Our team is working with Daniel and we aim to have a consistent (and abundant) supply of herbs, tomatoes, squash and stone fruit throughout the summer and fall. And we hope to consistently feature some of the best tasting, and truly “local” produce at Timber & Salt over the next few months.

    This will not be easy. It’s one thing to plant some stuff that you harvest once a year (past readers may recall dozens of blog posts about what to do with produce from your garden when you get it all at once). But for the restaurant, we are staggering planting times and varietals to make for a longer season and harvest. We expect that this will be a “learning” year…but even with some fits and starts we will have a lot of tasty food to enjoy and share.

    We will keep everyone posted on our progress and also let everyone know when dishes at the restaurant are featuring some truly “just-picked” produce. Meanwhile, here are a few pics….

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    Some of the hundreds of tomato plants we are planting.

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    Spring onions….no too impressive to look at, but very sweet and with way more flavor.

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    Tree Collards. These are so good they may not make it to the restaurant….just our kitchen.

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    Lettuces, herbs and chard.

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    White peaches early in their growth. The trees are specially trimmed and tied for easy access.

     

     

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  • The Best Corn Ever: Bacon Fat Corn-On-The-Cob

    corn1If you live in the States, pretty much wherever you are, there should be some rockin’ corn on the cob available (if not, bummer, sorry dude). And while there is nothing wrong with the traditional version of corn, butter, salt and pepper, it is always good to experiment. And sometimes those experiments pay off. This is one of those times. (There are also those “other” times, but we choose not to blog about those….)

    corn6cornBeyond the normal corn on the cob recipes, we often like what is called “Mexican Corn” where you add some mayo, spices, and/or cheese to your corn on the cob. You might even grill the corn for more smoky flavor. All good, but a bit of a pain in the a$$ “complicated”. On the other hand, we figured that simplicity may be the answer. Why not take the basic ingredients and substitute a few favorites? And when we think of favorites, we think bacon fat…bacon is the 8th wonder of the world, after all. Out goes the butter, in goes the bacon fat.

    corn5Yes, it may seem wrong to use bacon fat directly on fresh corn on the cob, but we use it all the time in cut corn preparations, so why not? And since we were adding some nice smoky flavor, we decided to double-down and substitute smoked paprika for black pepper. We kept the salt. Salt, there is no substitute.

    corn2How did it turn out? Well, “you had us a bacon fat”. We loved it, the boys loved it and there was no extra effort. Boil water, cook corn, apply bacon fat, add seasoning, consume, repeat. And the taste was as expected, sweet and salty with an extra layer of deep smoky flavor. And that smoky flavor comes without using a grill for cooking the corn. Nice.

    corn4So, will we always do “bacon fat corn on the cob”? No, we still like butter as well. But this is already a standard here at the farm, we suggest you give it a try. Besides, it is a good excuse to cook up some bacon…

    Bacon Fat Corn-On-The Cob:

    Notes: No notes. Go make some bacon and save that fat! And if you want to chop that bacon real fine and roll the corn in it, that won’t suck either.

    Ingredients:

    • 6 ears fresh corn on the cob, shucked
    • 3 tablespoons bacon fat
    • Kosher salt
    • Smoked paprika

    Assemble:

    1. Fill a large pot with water, place over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. When boiling, add the corn and cook for 3 minutes. Remove corn from the water and set on a large plate or baking sheet.
    2. While the corn is still very warm, drizzle each ear of corn with about 1/2 tablespoon of the bacon fat (rub it in as needed). Season lightly with salt and smoked paprika. Leave out extra salt and paprika to allow your guest to adjust seasoning to taste. Serve.

     

  • Mixology Monday XCVIII Cocktail: Abeilles et Lavande

    lav5Since we are hosting Mixology Monday (and don’t worry, the due date is 6/15) we thought we should post a few cocktails for our “Hometown Hooch” theme over the next few days- this is our first. Here is the breakdown:

    One of the best recent developments in the world of cocktails and spirits is the reemergence of regional, craft distillers. And we say “reemergence” because 100+ years ago, before the twin scourges of Prohibition and virtual monopolization “industrialization,” distilling was often a truly local endeavor. Not so long ago, if you wanted some booze, it was often made in your neighborhood and for the tastes of the locals. Sadly, for a few generations, that wasn’t the case… But, quite happily, those days are back… There are literally hundreds of local and regional distillers making some seriously tasty spirits… and now is the time for our monthly online cocktail party to send them some love.

    Your quest is simple. Create a new cocktail, or refashion a classic, using your favorite “hometown hooch” (and we can expand the definition of “hooch” to include spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs and beer)… A little local flavor or history on your “hometown hooch” is very welcome.

    We have to admit, we chose this theme because we have a few local distillers in mind; one well-established and nationally recognized, another a new kid on the block. We will start with the new kid on the block, Venus Spirits of Santa Cruz. The brainchild of Sean Venus, Venus Spirits makes a range of booze including whiskeys, aquavit, an excellent tequila (or “agave spirit”, since it is made in the states) and some very tasty gin. Not surprisingly, we really like the gin (the tequila didn’t last long either).

    lavlav1lav2Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 01 has a cool feature where they show the list of botanicals they use in their gin. In this particular blend, the flavor that truly stands out from the standard juniper and citrus is a delightful touch of lavender. You know the lavender is there but it never dominates or drowns out other flavors. And, most importantly, it doesn’t have any “soapy” flavors you often get with flowers like lavender or violets. With such a unique flavor profile, this is gin worth seeking out.

    lav4As for the cocktail, we decided to use local lavender for inspiration. We have the gin with lavender notes. And as it turns out, Putney Farm honey is mostly lavender and the lavender patch is right by our Meyer lemon tree. From there, we looked at our favorite gin and lemon cocktails and went for a riff on the classic French 75. We sub our lavender honey for sugar syrup, use a local sparking wine instead of champagne and garnish with a lavender flower from the garden. It tastes like a French 75 but with sweet floral aromas and light lavender flavor. A good sip from beginning to end- think lavender lemonade, just better…..way better.

    lav6We call the drink the “Abeilles et Lavande” (translation: Bees and Lavender). This is a serious “hometown hooch” cocktail.  In fact, everything in this drink comes from well within 50 miles….heck, the lemons, honey and lavender come from within 50 yards.

    lav7Abeilles et Lavande:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 oz. Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 1*
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 3/4 oz. lavender honey syrup (1-1 honey and hot water)
    • 2-3 oz. sparkling wine or champagne
    • Lavender flowers, for garnish

    * Note, if you can’t get Venus gin but want the lavender flavor, we suggest you lightly infuse a lemon/honey mixture with just a touch of lavender, a little goes a long way.

    Assemble:

    1. Put the gin, lemon and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled flute or coupé. Add the sparkling wine.
    2. Slap the lavender flower in your hand and add to the top of the cocktail as garnish. Serve.
  • Perfect Zucchini Recipe: Charred Zucchini With Summer Pesto

    Always better with a tasty beverage...

    Always better with a tasty beverage…

    Ah, the joys of zucchini. It grows so easily that it makes any gardener feel good. But then it keeps coming, and coming….and coming….and then you get so much you can’t even give it away (neither can your neighbors). And god forbid you try to cook it all- your kids will never forgive you if you serve it every night (trust us, we have tried and they haven’t forgotten).

    zuczuc1Happily we do have a few recipes that make the bountiful, but otherwise somewhat bland and watery zucchini worth eating throughout the summer. One of our faves is Redcat Zucchini, but that recipe is best done in small batches. What if you are grilling for a group? Well, this charred zucchini recipe is the perfect answer. This recipe is easy, tasty, time-efficient and it features ingredients that should be in your garden or farmers market right now.

    zuc2zuc4zuc5The steps are easy. Get some basil and mint from your garden and then make a pesto with some nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios work), oil, garlic and a little briny kick from some capers. Do some chopping, add some parm and/or pecorino and you are ready to go (oh, and you can do this ahead in big batches- this pesto works with anything).

    zuc6zuc7As for the zucchini, the char on the grill is the way to go (you could use a broiler in a pinch). If you are grilling you can char the zucchini briefly right when the coals go on the grill and are at their hottest (usually too hot for cooking proteins). It only takes a minute or two on each side. And you do want some char, those smoky notes balance with the fresh flavors of the pesto.

    zuc9 Continue reading