Saturday, September 25, 2010
I had a mega-evening at Tara Firma Farms, so this will be a mega-post! So the flow of the blog on this will be 1) pre-event and previews of coming attractions, 2) reception, 3) farm tour, 4) program - Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability spoke, 5) dinner, and 6) Joe's Chicken Shack - the Tara Firma Farms store. The bottom line is if you are interested in local, sustainable food and great events you'll want to pay the farm a visit! The next opportunity is this very weekend for the Sonoma Farm Trails event, the next is a family friendly Pumpkins on Pikes Halloween event.
Tara Firma Farms is close to Marin in Sonoma county between Petaluma and Novato. It is so close, yet when you leave Hwy 101 on San Antonio road it isn't long until you feel like you are in a different world. When you see the sign in the photo above, you are ready to turn onto "I" street and nearly to Tara Firma Farms.
When you see this sign, you know you are there! When I drove in, I was immediately greeted by cheerful farm dogs, and then cheerful farm staff who indicated that I drive through(!) a barn to get to the event parking.
After driving through the barn, the second barn became visible. There were tables set up for check in out front and the large barn accommodated the reception on one side and the dinner on the other.
And in front of the barn was a peaceful pond.
I went inside the dining tent to see the activity and also get a seat where I could take good photos. Ah, Straus Family Creamery at the coffee station, good sign!
The table set up was beautiful as well.
I meandered over to a greenhouse next to the barn on the way to the reception in the back of the barn. How lush!
In the back half of the barn there was a band playing in the background and the appetizers and drinks followed. The Caprese Salad on a Stick, consisting of cherry tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil on skewers was a great first bite.
And these happy servers gave any takers Olive Tapenade Crostini and Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts. It was all very tasty of course. Montemaggiore was there pouring their 2009 Rose’ of Syrah (Estate) for the reception.
Next, those who were new or/or interested in a farm tour left the reception with Tara Smith and walked down a path towards the pigs. The pigs were awfully cute, even when muddy.
Then there were the chickens. Tara explained the sustainable principles that are actively followed on the farm. The animals at Tara Firma are all natural pastured animals roaming and eating the abundant grass on the farm. These animals are happy. Joel Salatin of Polyface farm visited Tara Firma Farms and gave some advice to make the farmers lives easier too, recommending such things as a gravity fed water supply for the animals. Now animals and people alike are happier.
The henhouse is mobile and contributes to the enrichment of not only the fowl, but the farm soil as well.
I just couldn't stop taking photos of these cute hens.
There was a diversity of types, ages and stages. Some were moulting. That brought me back to my grandfather's farm, the first of several experiences of old familiar sights, sounds and tastes taking me out of the present. I remember my grandfather patiently explaining that the hens weren't hurt but undergoing a natural process when I came running to him as a young child afraid the hens were dying. I haven't thought of that since until the evening at Tara Firma Farms. During moulitng the feathers are renewed as well as the hens strength for laying eggs. My eyes were always being opened to new things growing up visiting grandfather's farm. I thought this is the perfect place to bring kids to have a similar experience.
The farm tour ended, and we went back to the barn for the program. Some very tasty Veggie Pizza was waiting on the table for us.
Tara Smith started the program off, not only giving us some background of Lierre Keith, the featured speaker, but of how she and her family came to start farming in mid-life. The kep point was that her son instigated it when he challenged his parents after hearing them express frustration at the food choices they were finding.
Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability was not only thought provoking but indeed she shattered some widely held myths, particularly those among vegetarians. One of the most eye opening parts for me was learning that eating vegetables also causes the death of animals, and not just things like insects. When we destroy ecosystems in order to plant annuals in a monoculture type way animals perish. I bought her book on the spot during the after dinner book signing.
Vince Ciolino, the owner and vineyard manager spoke about his Montemaggiore wines. We also had the 2009 3Divas (White Rhone blend of Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier) and 2007 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah (Estate) with dinner.
Laura Howard, the woman behind Laloo's Ice Cream, which topped our dessert spoke about Laloo's unique goat milk ice cream.
And now, the dinner. I'll let the photos do most of the talking. This was the first course, Potato Leek Soup and it was thick, smooth and well seasoned. All of the vegetables and meat were gown on the farm, how more local can it get?
The Mixed Greens with corn, tomatoes, cucumbers in cumin vinaigrette dressing was bursting with fresh flavor.
The Chicken Marbella, Roasted Chicken with green olives, dried plums, capers was absolutely amazing. Moist and succulent the meal could have stopped here and been something to rave about.
Then came the Beet Carpaccio which had an earthy and satisfying flavor.
This is a close up of the plated Braised Short Ribs with carrots, onions, potatoes and beautiful bones. This was fork tender and quite delicious.
The Cucumber and Tomato Salad with balsamic vinaigrette was cooling and refreshing.
Did anyone have room for dessert after this? Well, we managed having to at least try the Grilled spiced peaches.
The Grilled peaches with walnuts and brown sugar were self topped Laloo's Vanilla Ice Cream out on the front area of the barn where we wandered while the book signing was set up and the band got set up for dancing!
The band was Olive & the Dirty Martini's. The band featured Marin singer Stefanie Coyote, wife of actor Peter Coyote, guitarist James Redford, son of actor Robert Redford; and Steve Riffkin, Eric Lyons and Justin Ganz.
The evening was a lot of fun with plenty of food! There is some more background information in Bread and Butter column about the event.
I wanted to see the store as well, so I came back to Tara Firma Farms to visit Joe's Chicken Shack.
It's the green building near the entrance and before the 'drive through' barn.
I picked up some pastured eggs.
And then some leeks, rainbow carrots, heirloom tomatoes and yellow summer squash.
And I took a walk through the back where whole chickens and other pastured meats were all prepared and waiting for pick up. Everything was clean and neat. After gathering all the vegetables and eggs that I thought I could squeeze into my already laden refrigerator, I took instruction on the self-check out table and settled up. I headed out with my insulated bag full of produce and blue ice to keep the just-picked freshness in.
If you have made it this far, I just want to note that I've just scratched the surface here of what is available from and with Tara Firma Farms, it's a very cool place. I'll be back again soon.