Saturday, September 25, 2010

Myths revealed

Tara Firma Farms Road SIgn

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.

Tara Firma Farms Entrance

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.

The Barn

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!

Table setting

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!

Caprese Salad on a Stick

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.

Women serving Figs

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.

Chicken house

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.

Chickens chowing

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.

More Chickens

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.

Veggie Flatbread

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

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

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

Laura Howard, the woman behind Laloo's Ice Cream, which topped our dessert spoke about Laloo's unique goat milk ice cream.

Potato Leek Soup

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?

Mixed Green Salad

The Mixed Greens with corn, tomatoes, cucumbers in cumin vinaigrette dressing was bursting with fresh flavor.

Chicken Marbella

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.

Beet Carpaccio

Then came the Beet Carpaccio which had an earthy and satisfying flavor.

Braised Short Rigbs with Carrots, Onions, Potatoes
The only 'complaint' I can make about this dinner is that the platters were SO heaping that one could barely lift them!  The Braised Short Ribs with carrots, onions, potatoes being no exception.  The dinner was served family-style so we were passing the dishes along both sides of the long tables.

Braised Short Ribs & Cucumber & Tomato Salad

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.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad w/Balsalmic Vinaigrette

The Cucumber and Tomato Salad with balsamic vinaigrette was cooling and refreshing.

Plate of Grilled Peaches

Did anyone have room for dessert after this?  Well, we managed having to at least try the Grilled spiced peaches.

Grilled Peaches w/ Laloo's Ice Cream, vanilla

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

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.

Joe's Chicken Shack

I wanted to see the store as well, so I came back to Tara Firma Farms to visit Joe's Chicken Shack.

Joe's Chicken Shack

It's the green building near the entrance and before the 'drive through' barn.

Organic Vegetables

I picked up some pastured eggs.

Organic Vegetables

And then some leeks, rainbow carrots, heirloom tomatoes and yellow summer squash.

Joe's Chicken Shack Weigh In

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.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging #251 - the week in review

We've blogged herbs for a week, and here's the fun that was had together in this fresh flavorful adventure.  This time, I'll let the photos do most of the talking with the caveat that in some cases it doesn't do the originating post justice.  Each of the posts has its own charm, voice and are worth the read through, especially if you like new ways with herbs!

Name: Rachel
Location: Saratoga County, NY
Herb: Anise hyssop
Post: Anise Hyssop Simple Syrup

spiced pecans top 328

Name: Winnie
Location: New Paltz, NY
Herb: Pecans

sausage parsley

Name: Megha
Location: Mumbai, India
Herb: Parsley
Post: Sauted sausages with parsley


Name: Janet
Location: Toronto, Canada
Herb: Pomegranate

whb251-haalo pumpkin

Name: Haalo
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Herb:  Butternut Pumpkin
Post: Crumbed Pumpkin Slices


Name: Peggy Polaneczky
Location: New York City
Herb: Rosemary, Thyme, Tarragon
Post: Herb-Roasted Potatoes

eggplant orange jam

Name: Brii
Location: Valsorda, Garda Lake, Italy
Herb: Aubergine (Eggplant)
Post: Aubergine (eggplant) and Orange Jam

courgette carpaccio-3web2

Name: Johanna
Location: Athens, Greece
Herb: Courgette (Zucchini)
Post: Courgette Carpaccio

apricot star anise2

Name: Cinzia
Location: Garda Lake, Italy
Herb: Star Anise
Blog: Cindystar
Post: Plum and Apricot Jam with Star Anise

nectarine tart

Name: Oz
Location: Netherlands
Herb: Nectarine
Post: A Nectarine Tart & the Colour Red

Lemon & Honey drink

Name: Anna Haight
Location: Mill Valley, CA
Herb: Lemons

This weeks host of Weekend Herb Blogging is Winne at Healthy Green Kitchen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging

Finished lemon & honey base

 And it's time for me to post my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. This week it is hosted here at Anna's Cool Finds. Founded by Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen and now organized by Haalo at Cook Almost Anything it is a continuing source of finding new ways with herbs. There's a four year recap available here.

I had to choose this versatile and nutritious Lemon & Honey Base as a friend in Japan called me to tell me about this one she thought it so fabulous.  She learned about it from an accomplished athlete in Japan.  It's quite simple.  Just slice lemons and place in a clean jar, and fill the jar completely with honey.  Leave for three days, and it's ready to go!  I sliced mine in wheels since I intended to use the base in drinks. It can be used with hot or cold water as is for a refreshing drink, or you can add it to other drinks to perk them up.  I also tried adding it to unsweetened iced  peppermint tea, and hot Earl Grey tea.  I understand the athletes also make it by cutting the lemons in wedges and then sucking on the pulp without mixing in water for a boost between activities.  It is chock full of vitamin C, and the honey gives a quick energy boost.  I noticed that mine had some of the honey rather thickly on the bottom with lighter syrup mixed with lemon juice on the top, so it was necessary to stir the base before using to even out the thickness.

Lemons in jar

Here is the start of putting the lemon wheels into the jar.  I used about six lemons in a glass Weck canning jar.  I thought it would make a pretty container. I stuffed it with as many lemons as I could.

Start of the lemon & honey base
Then I poured nearly 32 ounces of honey over the top and watched it seep through the lemons.  It indeed looked so pretty! I put this jar in the refrigerator and waited for three days.

Lemon & Honey Base

It didn't look much different three days later.

Lemon & Honey drink

The first thing I did was to make a simple iced lemon and honey drink.  It was refreshing and tasted great!

I will likely post the round up on Monday, stay tuned for what other bloggers around the globe have been up to with herbs.