Farm to Table

IMG_0749Farm to Table. It’s the new hot hashtag, all the rage. Restaurants popping up all over the country who partner with local farms so that they can claim the freshest food in town. Traveling chef’s like Jim Denevan from Outstanding in the Field have gotten in on the action by linking up with farms to put on exquisite farm to table dinners, using ingredients picked or slaughters that day, selling tickets to the first 50-200 people willing to pay anywhere from $150-$1000 a meal.

As we travel we find ourselves seeking out the freshest, organic foods we can find. Firstly because of our health, and also because we want to support local as we make our way. We thought we had a pretty good grip on where to find fresh food and how to cook with local ingredients but nothing tops what we learned during our week in Lafayette, LA on the Gotreaux Family farm.

It’s been a week since we last sat at the Gotreaux family table sharing our last meal and saying goodbye. As I sit at my desk eating my egg salad sandwich made with the fresh eggs from their farm, hatched the day we left, I am reminiscing about our rich time with them.

This was our third visit with this awesome family of 12 and unlike previous visit where we just observed farm life, this time around we were invited to actually work alongside of them on the farm and in the kitchen. Craig helped build a brooder house (nursery for baby chicks) and Banjo learned how to care for and catch the organic Tilapia. We all had our hands in the dirt on harvest day and on market day Graciana and I got to make our first meal for the whole group, 18 of us in total. We had the help of the twins and through out the week they would stay by our sides, helping us navigate in the kitchen, find or pick ingredients, and prep cook. Occasionally, some of the boys would drift in the kitchen, observing and if they weren’t busy I’d put them to work. We also had the help of our friend, Victoria Jones, one of the Gotreaux’s interns.

IMG_0755Our first meal out of the gate was Moroccan Vegetable Ragout, fresh-baked naan, Greek Salad and Blueberry Pie. All but a few ingredients came from the Gotreaux garden. The dinner was a hit, and as the week progressed we were invited to cook a few more meals. Because of the cold rainy weather and ingredients available we ended up choosing hardy winter recipes. Our menu included:

Dinner: Sweet Potato, Red Bell Pepper soup, Cheesy Cauliflower Bread, a Garden Salad and Aussie Lemon Bars.

Lunch: Turkey Burrito’s, side of Guacamole and chips/salsa.

Dinner: Rosemary Potato Soup, Fresh Baked Baguette, Arugula Pear and Fresh Parmesan Salad, Choc No-bake cookies.

Formal Dinner: Fresh Tilapia Ceviche appetizer, Savory Chicken Crepes, Spinach Apple Blue Salad, Aussie Lemon Bars.

IMG_0832There is nothing like cooking with fresh ingredient but I have never had the privilege of cooking with eggs, vegetables, dairy, or tilapia that was fresh picked or caught that day and not just that day, but moments before I used them. I could ask for anything and if it was in season and available it would be brought to me, ready to use. I might ask, do you have celery and one of the girls would answer yes, walk out the door, over to the garden and minutes later walk in with celery. And, did you know that most nutritious, delicious part of the celery are the leaves? I learned that celery is really not meant to go to stalk and the pale green celery we buy in the store looks and tastes nothing like the lush dark green savory celery I used in my Rosemary Potato Soup. I still love ants on a log, but I’m not sure I can go back to the vacant celery stalks in the grocery store without feeling like I’m being duped.

IMG_0848There is also nothing like cooking for 10 (plus our two) growing young people, all excited see what I can do with their harvest, ready to try something new. Each meal, I could feel the anticipation and when they sat down to give my recipes a try, they were open and honest about how my flavors impacted their tastes buds. Thankfully, they liked most of what I made.

I know the rest of my family had an epic time on the Gotreaux farm and that they each have individual stories that are just as profound. But for me, as far as travel experiences go, the opportunity to learn and create with the freshest ingredients, cooking alongside some of the most precious souls, and watching so many beautiful smiles as they raised their forks to mouth will go down in my top ten moments of community and growth. Farm to table has taken on a new meaning to me. It’s not just the new hot thing to do, it’s not just a marketing term, it’s an inspiring way of life and we are so blessed to have had the opportunity to live it!

4786392-f32f3686ce9e7b5fc86c8400e7e5dddc-fp-1372615888

 

 

By the way if you are interested in any of the recipes that we made during our visit with the Gotreauxs please visit  Behind The Apron Strings; Recipes from the Road.

Advertisements

Old Factory Aromatics

IMG_0626Soap-i-dy Soap-i-dy Soap! One of our favorite things to do is spend time with kinfolk who are living their dream. So, meeting and learning from the proprietors, Jonathan and Madeline, of Old Factory Aromatics was one of our highlight during our time in Texas.
In 2007, Jonathan Savoie and Madeline Novak met in Chicago IL one evening. Jonathan tells the romantic story of Madeline walking through the doors at Ravins Grin.  A friend of a friend, Madeline joined his table as she had just come from work at a local soap making company. She shared a little bit about her job and the soap making and a spark ignited in their relationship. Jonathan fell for Madeline… and her bag of soap. Over time, Jonathan began to feel a stirring to find a more creative outlet in life. He found soap making intreging and seemed to have a natural knack for creating signature blends. The more he moved towards the craft the more it felt right and the final confirmation was finding out that soap making was actually apart of his French heritage. As their relationship flourished so did the move towards the sundry business, and together, they started Old Factory Aromatics, moved to the Texas hill country along with Madeline’s sister, Emily and set up shop.
We’re glad they did! Their soaps and sundries are made with the finest organic ingredients and Jonathan’s nose for delicate combinations is excellent. And, in the French tradition each product has a fantastic story, including art work. This added touch makes their products even more special.
IMG_0592Their workshop is currently in Canyon Lake, TX just south of Austin but they hope to settle in Wimberley someday. In the meantime, we parked alongside them for a night, enjoying a sunset at Canyon Lake, made Red Thai Curry for dinner and later they showed us the romantically scientific process of soap making and allowed each of us to try our hand at creating a signature blend perfume. Graciana chose a blend of Vanilla, Cinnamon and Blood Orange. Banjo went for Geranium Bourbon, Cassia, Frankincense, and Rosemary. And, Jana used Oak Moss, Cypril, Pink Grapefruit, and Frankincense. It was so inspiring to see the kids really get into the creating process. The next morning we shared breakfast and said our final goodbyes. We roll on with wafts of beautiful smells and fond memories of our time at the Old Soap Factory.
Head on over to their website and get yourself some Old Factory Aromatics.