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
Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Photo from Central Coast Lavender
Makes about 50 cookies
1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or 1 egg whisked with a little water)
extra lavender sugar for sprinkling on top
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.
In a small spice grinder (I use my cleaned out coffee grinder) to grind up 1 tablespoon lavender and 1 tablespoon sugar. Grind it up! You could also use a mortar and pestle to grind the sugar and lavender together.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment add butter, ground lavender mixture, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cream on medium speed until slightly more pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and add the flour, mix on low speed until dough comes together. The dough will be crumbly, then begin to form when it continues to mix. Dump dough mixture out onto a clean surface and form into a ball with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Divide refrigerated dough into quarters. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut cookies, or use a pizza cutter to slice cookies into squares. Use a fork to prick cookies. Brush very lightly with cream or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate cookies while oven preheats.
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350° .
When oven is preheated, bake cookies for 8 to 11 minutes, until just browned around the edges. Remove from oven. Allow cooling on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes then removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cookies last, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 4 days.
adapted slightly from Party Like a Culinista
I have a love affair with California avocados, ever since I was a little girl, I could never get enough. My grandmother used to feed us mashed avocado on toast with a little salt and pepper every day during the season and it is still my favorite for breakfast! Or even a little snack.
A couple of weeks ago I went to visit an avocado farm, but not just any farm, Holtz Family Avocado Farm in Escondido. Their forest of avocado trees is just so beautiful; it’s so inspiring just to walk the grove. Growing these avocados is a three-year process from budding the growth to blooming and then a year for the fruit to ripen. You can see the baby avocados, which will be ready for next years harvest, hanging on a tree right next to the avocados that are being picked for this years harvest. Avocados like to grow up in the light and when the trees get too tall it can be dangerous picking but the farm hands are experienced and work with the family year round.
The Holtz family grow mostly Hass avocados but some Reeds as well and they have a unique way of getting great avocados directly to you, they pick them at the perfect time and then ship them to you in their specially designed boxes. All avocados are hand picked and shipped the same day; the ripening comes on your end with easy step by step instructions that are enclosed in your ‘Hand Grown in California’ avocado box. Simple, easy and delicious California avocados can be ordered from their website, California Avocados Direct.
And for inspiration on recipes, stories and life on an avocado ranch visit Mimi’s blog at Mimi Avocado; tell her Chef Debbi sent you!
Use California avocados in Chef Debbi’s Gazpacho recipe! Gazpacho recipe here.
1 small red onion
2 small cucumbers
2 ribs celery
1 small jalapeno, optional
1 roasted red bell pepper
6 medium tomatoes
1 cup French bread, cut into cubes and soaked in a little water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, zested
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ Hass avocado, chopped
Rough chop the vegetables and add to a blender, for a chunkier texture process in a food processor instead of a blender.
Squeeze the water from the French bread cubes and add to a blender along with the vegetables. Add olive oil and vinegar and blend to a puree. Season with salt, pepper (if needed), lemon juice, zest and Worcestershire sauce. Refrigerate over night for best flavor.
To serve, check for seasoning again before pouring into a bowl. Garnish the top of the soup with the chopped avocado.
Goes very well with a nicely toasted slice of cheesy garlic bread.
Starting An Herb Garden
An herb garden doesn’t have to be big so you don’t need much space to grow one. You can even start a potted herb garden on your windowsill! This way you’ll have the aroma of fresh herbs right inside your kitchen or on your patio.
When growing herbs, location is key. Some like it sunny and dry, while others prefer filtered sunlight and moist soil. Regardless, make sure to use well-drained fertile soil. Most herbs will survive in poor sandy soil, but few will tolerate wet clay soil. If your yard is all sun, try planting shade-loving plants east of taller varieties like sunflowers. The tall plants will generate shade for the smaller ones.
Basil, Chives, Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon, and Thyme prefer full sun, while Chervil, Lemon Balm, and Mint prefer partial shade in your herb garden.
Water newly planted herbs regularly but once they are established, most are naturally drought resistant. Watering and drainage goes hand in hand. Rather give your herbs too little than too much water. After a good soaking, allow the water to drain away and the soil to dry out slightly. Water again when the top 1″ or so of soil is dry to the touch.
During the growing season fertilize about once a month with a weak solution of fish emulsion. Compost 4 times a year (at the beginning of each season, will also provide the plants with the nutrients they need. Don’t fertilize dormant plants, such as tarragon, some thyme and sometimes chives, just add a little compost around them and wait for them to wake up in the spring.
If you over feed your herbs and make them happy and beautiful they may lack some flavor. Hold back a little water and a little fertilizer to help concentrate the oils in the leaves thus increasing their flavor, aroma and medicinal value.
Pruning is essential to encourage healthy, bushy growth. Remove dead leaves and flowers on a regular basis. Should you frequently use your herbs, pruning may not be necessary, as you would be pruning automatically.
Be sure to let some of your herbs flower and ‘go to seed’, it will encourage good bugs, butterflies and hummingbirds into the garden.
Chef Debbi will be presenting an Herbal Workshop On Sat March 22 at
Rancho Los Alamitos, Long Beach 10-12
For more info and to sign up click below
Culinary Herb Garden Workshop
Rancho Los Alamitos, Long Beach
Sat. March 22, 10 – 12
$60.00 ($55.00 RLA Members)
Spring is here! Time to plant an herb garden to use for all your cooking creations!
Chef Debbi will share tips and tricks to growing and using a successful herb garden. Choose from several varieties of herbs, add a colorful jute ribbon and create a decorative sign for you creation. Chef Debbi will share her herbal scone recipe and a tasting as well.
Call Rancho Los Alamitos at (562) 431-3541 or for more information and pay on line links click on the lavender sprig.