I met Barbara and Bill Spencer sometime around 2004 when I was scouting heirloom tomatoes from Paso Robles farmers market. Barbara invited me out to the farm and so my husband and I trekked out there one morning. We didn’t want to disrupt their farm work but yet they stopped working when we arrived and gave us a thorough tour of their lovely little farm. It is such a peaceful unique farm you just want to lie down in the grass and daydream watching the clouds pass by. But a farmers work is never done and we wanted to get out of their way so they could return to their chores. Absolutely not! They insisted we stay for lunch and Bill pulled a beautiful roasted mutton out of the refrigerator and a loaf of freshly baked bread, yes Bill makes his own bread! Barbara foraged for greens and veggies for a salad and whipped up a delicious little dressing. We ate and chatted about life and the farm for what seemed like all afternoon and with sadness had to depart and leave this magical place.
I host several tours to Cambria and Paso Robles and I always finish the tour on Sunday with a day at Windrose Farm with Bill and Barbara. No-one ever wants to leave! I wish all of you could join us for a weekend discovering food and wine and a central coast lifestyle but if you can’t, I’d like to share a piece of Windrose Farm with you. Following is an excerpt from their website and a glimpse inside the magic of Windrose Farm. Join us Oct 24th – Oct 26th for a trip that includes a visit to Windrose.
Windrose is a small family farm located east of Paso Robles and tucked into a unique valley of 50 acres, 12 are in vegetable rotations, 6 are in apples and stone fruit and 5 are sheep pasture. The rest is habitat – full of animal, bird and insect life.
Owners Bill and Barbara Spencer have been certified organic from August 1999 to 2009, but are currently transitioning to biodynamic! The farm has been “clean” for twenty years; since its purchase in 1990.
In 1993 Windrose began going to the Farmer’s Markets with produce from their first small market garden. Having already discovered the enjoyment of growing many “specialty” varieties of vegetables – most particularly heirloom tomatoes and potatoes, they also found they loved selling to wonderful restaurants as well as to their friends at Farmer’s Markets.
In addition to tomatoes and potatoes, Windrose grows onions, garlic, green and dry beans, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, carrots, turnips, beets, cucumbers, melons and many varieties of greens. They also have apples and stone fruit. Their little valley is a unique micro-climate that is good for the diverse crops of lilacs, apples, super-sweet onions and melons.
Bill & Barbara state that “The longer we farm, the more enthralled we are with the old traditional seeds and plants. We strive as much as possible to use open-pollinated or heirloom varieties and have begun our own seed-saving program. Every day brings us more knowledge and a stronger belief in the principals and practices of sustainable organic farming. It is complex and labor-intensive – but the burst of life in the soil and the habitat of our little valley is astonishing.”
Barbara and Bill have often sought to better explain their philosophy about the environment that is Windrose Farm.
In this years Biodynamic calendar we found the following by Patrick Holden, a soils expert, long time organic farmer and advocate of the ‘biodynamic‘ philosophy:
“We subscribe to Rudolph Steiner’s* philosophy that the farm should be seen as an ecosystem in its own right, and that our striving should be to move towards building and maintaining plant and animal communities, which are ecologically suited to its unique combination of soil, climate and place.”
Barbara and Bill cherish their time at the ecosystem that is Windrose and sharing the bounty that it produces.
* Rudolph Steiner founder and creator of the “Biodynamic philosophy and principles.
Visit Windrose Farm at www.windrosefarm.org
Join Chef Debbi and The Debettes for our
Fall Farm, Food and Wine Tour
of California’s Central Coast
for more info click here
Central Coast Fall Harvest Adventure
October 24th – 26th, 2014
Join Chef Debbi on another Farm, Food and Wine Adventure
Stay at the lovely Cambria Pines Lodge
Join Chef Debbi & her Debettes for a dinner party/wine tasting Friday evening
Be escorted by The Wine Wrangler experts around Paso Robles to visit:
Pasolivo Olive Ranch for a tasting of local olive oils & more
Rangeland Ranch and Winery
Take a hay ride around the sustainable ranch and vineyards with owner Laird Foshay
Wine Tasting and Vineyard lunch with Lisa & Laird on the patio with a panaromic view of the hills
Wine tasting on Vineyard Dr. as we make our way back to Jack Creek Pumpkin Farm where you can pick up holiday pumpkins, gourds and more
Sat. evening explore local cuisine on your own and rest up for Sun!
Sunday we’ll caravan to Windrose Farm for a biodynamic tour of Bill & Barbara Spencers mystical farm
Chef Debbi, Barbara & Debettes will create a farm feast for you with what we’ve found on the farm that day
In season usually we can find luscious heirloom tomatoes, shishito peppers, potatoes, all kinds of greens and it’s apple season!
Don’t miss this limited seating tour. Drive yourself up the coast and meet Chef Debbi & her crew for a Farm, Food and Wine Adventure!
$675.00, per person, double occupancy
I also have a special suite for a party of 5-6 ppl, call for a special rate
All rooms have fireplaces, hot buffet breakfast is included
$650.00 total fee if paid in full by Sept 1. Payment plan available, contact Chef Debbi @ info@debskitchen for billing
There will be a 2.9% fee added (listed as a ‘tax’) but it is a credit card fee that goes to Paypal
There is nothing as sweet and juicy as an Ojai Pixie Tangerine! Unfortunately they are in season for such a short time, you’ll find them available only until the end of April, if you’re lucky!
Sometimes Pixie tangerines can be difficult to find but you can order direct from Melissa’s Produce website (click here).
Here is a great winter salad featuring the best of the Ojai Pixie’s, enjoy during this short season.
Blue Cheese Tangerine-Apple Walnut Salad with
¼ cup pomegranate vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch baby spinach leaves
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced into large chunks
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts
3 tangerines — peeled and sectioned
For the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly toss the spinach with enough dressing to coat leaves; place onto individual plates or a platter. Garnish with apples, cranberries, nuts and tangerine sections. Serve extra dressing on the side.
1 1⁄4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
2 – 3 tablespoons ice water
1⁄4 cup finely diced ham
2 -3 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 1⁄2 cup shredded cheese, such as Chedderella
4 large eggs
1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream or half and half
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Add flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor; pulse a few times to incorporate all the ingredients.
Add the butter and process until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is pea size.
Place the mixture into a wide bowl and add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together. Don’t overwork the dough or it will be tough, not flaky. Once the dough comes together in a ball, divide it into two pieces, flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400° while the dough is chilling.
Dough can be wrapped well at this point and frozen for up to three months. Let the dough defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Roll one chilled disk out on a floured counter or rolling mat, lifting and moving the dough every few rolls to help prevent sticking. Add only enough flour to the counter to keep the dough from sticking.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the tart pan.
Place your pan on top of the dough to make sure it is the correct size, it should be slightly larger than the pan, then roll the dough onto your rolling pin and unroll over your pan. Gently lift and lay the dough to fit the pan, never pull the dough to stretch it.
Lightly press the dough into the pan, roll your rolling pin over the top edge of the tart or pie pan and remove excess pastry. Prick the dough well with a fork.
Cut a piece of foil a little larger than the tart pan, butter the shiny side and place butter side down onto the dough. Press so the foil lays against the dough snugly, add another piece of foil if it doesn’t cover the entire crust.
Bake the crust for 20 minutes, remove beans and foil, bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before filling. (Leave oven on).
Boil potatoes until knife tender (when a knife can slip into the potato effortlessly with a little resistance). Drain and let cool until you’re able to handle them. Slice into disks or chop into a medium dice.
Heat a medium sauté pan, add oil until it covers the bottom of the pan, add potatoes and season with a pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Sauté potatoes until lightly browned, add ham and cook for about 2 minutes or until browned. Add potato mixture to the bottom of the cooled crust. Add cheese on top of the potato mixture.
Whisk together the eggs and cream, add a little seasoning of salt and pepper, pour over potato and cheese mixture, bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.
Let cool before serving.
The bright star of the season, Meyer Lemons are the sweetest lemons to use in cooking. Thin-skinned, juicy and brightly colored you can use every part of the lemon, well, except maybe the seeds! In season now you can find them in all markets and at your local farmers market. If you have your own tree about now you might be wondering what to do with all those lemons. If you have trouble finding them you can call our friends at Melissa’s Produce and they can fill up your pantry!
Below you’ll find a few of my favorite recipes.
How to choose, store and use beautiful Meyer Lemons
Meyer Lemon Season (Commercial) Nov-May
Home Tree will fruit late Summer-April/May
Choose, Store and Use Meyer Lemons:
Pick lemons that have a smooth, yellow skin with no signs of bruises or cuts. Lemons that are heavy will have more juice in them; unfortunately, Meyer lemons also contain many seeds. Easily seeded if cut in half, most of the seeds are centered in the middle of the fruit.
Store lemons in a bowl on the counter in a cool place with no direct contact with the sun. If the lemons begin to become soft, refrigerate and use within a few days. If using refrigerated lemons, let them come to room temperature if possible. Roll all lemons around on the counter to help free up the juice.
Extra lemon juice can be poured into ice cube trays, frozen and then placed into a freezer bag and used within 6 months.
Meyer lemon trees grow well in pots in So. California, use a fast draining soil. They are hungry fellows so feed with an organic citrus fertilizer according to directions. They love the So. California sunshine but not so much our sometimes-windy weather. Meyer lemons like to be moist but not wet, deep infrequent watering and don’t let water sit in the liner or pot. If the weather threatens to freeze, water well and cover with a blanket or row cover at night, be very careful not to know off the fruit or flowers on the tree. Feed with an organic citrus food as directed and keep a close watch for citrus pests. Fruit will hold a long time on the tree, make sure they are nice and yellow before picking and after fruiting a little light pruning, if necessary will keep them compact and tidy.
Photo: Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Dan Becker
How to Make Mashed Potatoes!
1 medium organic* russet potato person
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 -2 tablespoons butter, REAL BUTTER, unsalted
1/2 cup milk (cream if you want to be decadent, or mix the two)
Sea Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sour cream, optional
1 teaspoon chives, optional
1 tablespoon grated cheese, optional
Wash potatoes and then cut into large chunks, place into a large saucepan and cover with cool water. Add a tablespoon of Kosher salt, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes.
Heat the butter with the milk (I use the microwave). If you use the microwave wait to heat until the potatoes are cooked. Drain the potatoes and peel the skin off with tongs. For creamy soft mashed potatoes slip through a ricer into the still hot saucepan that you cooked them in (without any water!) If you don’t have a ricer just put the chunks back into the pan, place on the stove over low heat for a minute or two. This helps to dry them a little further so they absorb the butter and milk more evenly.
Add enough butter and milk (or cream) to the potatoes and lightly mashed with a potato masher, they should come together easily. Don’t overwork the potatoes or they can turn gummy. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and add any optional ingredients, serve.
If you’re making potatoes for a crowd they can be made about 1 hour ahead of time and kept warm on low in a preheated slow cooker! (I don’t remember where I learned that trick but thank you to whoever it was that shared it)
*Organic potatoes, all kinds of pesticides and sprays are used on conventional potatoes to keep bugs from eating them while they grow. Then to harvest them and finally to keep them from sprouting in the store. Choose organic for your health.
A Little Glimpse Into Fall 2013 Tour
Sorry we missed you. Check back for upcoming Tours
October 11 -13, 2013
Fall Harvest Tour
Cambria & Paso Robles
California’s Beautiful Central Coast
Accommodations at Cambria Pines Lodge
Did you know October is Scarecrow Harvest Festival in Cambria, don’t miss them!
Friday Evening Events
Incredible Cambria Fall Farmers Market
Self-Guided Tour, Optional
Italian Style Dinner Party Cooking Class
Learn to make your own mozzarella cheese
Your own handmade grilled pizza
Italian Salads, Local Wine & Fun!
10:00 – 3:00 (approximately)
Tour with Wine Wrangler
Vineyard Wine Tour and Tasting
Private ‘Vineyard’ Lunch and Tasting at Croad Winery
10 – 2 (approximately)
Biodynamic Farm Tour & Lunch
Join Bill & Barbara Spencer for a unique farm tour and learn all about Biodynamic Farming and why it should be important to you and your food supply. Spend a few hours on a real working family farm then relax under the huge oak tree with a seasonal farm to table lunch prepared with ingredients that are found on the farm that day. Well, maybe a few extra treats thrown in! It’s a day you soon won’t forget