A 2.5 Acre Heritage Farm Grows In NYC: Producing 45 Tons of Produce In Past 6 Seasons & Growing Community Spirit

Historic farmland was restored in NYC to create the bountiful Heritage Farm at Snug Harbor on Staten Island

Farmer Jon Wilson watering seedlings nurtured in a hoop house at The Heritage Farm

Healthy rows of garlic growing at The Heritage Farm in mid-May for harvest in early July

Rows of lettuce plants in mid May on restored NYC farmland

The feathery leaves of fennel plants signal a future summer harvest of this mildly anise or “licorice” flavored vegetable, a favorite of connoisseurs

The Heritage Farm is also a compost demonstration site for NYC’s Compost Project

One of the several historic Greek Revival buildings on Snug Harbor’s campus

A ride on the Staten Island (which is free!) from lower Manhattan to NYC’s island borough, plus a 15 minute City bus ride takes a visitor to The Heritage Farm at Snug Harbor

This spring. farmer Jon Wilson’s plan to plant 500 tomato seedlings was delayed by the heat of a day in mid-May that felt summer-like. The planting by a team of four farmers (two full time, two part-time) would have to wait until the cooler evening.

Farmer Wilson’s favorite tomato of the 36 varieties that would be planted this season is a big and wide Striped German, described by the experienced grower as low acidity, high brix, and citrusy flavored. The rich soil of a New York City farm, Snug Harbor’s Heritage Farm, on the western side of Staten Island (not far from where the Staten Island ferries dock in St. George after traveling over from lower Manhattan) would be demonstrated, later in the 2018 growing season, by the tastiness of eating a locally grown tomato.

Jon Wilson’s description of his favorite tomato reminded this backyard gardener that too few folks appreciate that tomatoes come in a multitude of varieties with varying flavors, and that freshness, ripeness and terroir (a characteristic taste and flavor imparted by the environment in which vegetables are grown) also impart qualities to a tomato, lacking in nearly all supermarket ones.

Farmer Jon Wilson and his team nurture the small city farm. This season, 20,000 square feet of cover crops (oats, peas and rye) were grown to enrich naturally the land.

Chefs from over a dozen New York City restaurants (in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, including Chef Thomas Keller’s internationally famous and very expensive Per Se (in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in the heart of Gotham) who value the variety of flavors of heirloom tomatoes and other produce, have partnered with Snug Harbor’s Heritage Farm to make its 2.5 acres a local, agricultural success story.

And it’s not only big city chefs who benefit from the rich farmland. The small farm is committed to producing accessible, locally-grown produce for the community.

Seasonal produce is sold at the Heritage Farm Stand on the south side of the Snug Harbor campus, between the farm and the South Meadow. The farm stand is open 10:00AM-3:00PM every Saturday from mid June until Thanksgiving.

Snug Harbor’s Heritage Farm also deserves praise for its educational programs for the local community. Last season, farm staff worked with over 100 volunteers and educated over 2,280 children on sustainable farming, food sources, and plant biology at the farm. The farm also has a partnership with the New York City Department of Probation’s Youth WRAP Program, which serves young people on probation by providing life skills and job training.

According to a succinct history, which includes some photographs, on its website, Snug Harbor was founded in the early 19th century as a haven for aged, decrepit, and worn-out sailors by the will of Robert Richard Randall, the heir to a shipping fortune who died in 1801. It became a campus of 50 structures and 900 residents from every corner of the world, and by the early 20th century, was reputedly the richest charitable institution in the United States and a self-sustaining community with a farm, dairy, bakery, power plant, chapel, hospital, concert hall, dormitories, and a cemetery.

But the Randall endowment started to run out and the historic buildings began to deteriorate. New York City was persuaded by local activists and artists to purchase the property with the objective of transforming it into a cultural resource. The Heritage Farm is a very successful part of that 21st Century transformation.

(Frank W. Barrie, 5/23/18)

Mom’s Popovers: Brought Back to Mind By A Maine Soup Kitchen’s Awesome Community Building With Popovers Hot Out of the Oven

Easy to make popovers with a few basic ingredients: milk, flour, eggs, salt and some butter to melt at the bottom of the popover pan’s wells

Bowl with ingredients, ready to be whisked into batter, to fill the popover pan’s wells

Lofty and delicious popovers, with two wells left unfilled and the one in the center of the front row slightly less lofty since the well was only half-filled with batter instead of three-quarters filled

Indulging in big-time comfort food: flaky, eggy & tender popovers with a serving of flavorful bilberry fruit spread

In the current issue of Yankee Magazine, which for decades has been a welcome sight in the mailbox, a recipe for the summer specialty of popovers, at the non-profit Common Good Soup Kitchen in Southwest Harbor (a town on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County), Maine, was a reminder of my mom’s popovers cooked up once a year at Thanksgiving. I have held my mom’s memory close for more than 25 years, and on Thanksgiving Days in the past, I can recall her little bit of anxiety on timing the popovers to be hot out of the oven, just as the roast turkey was ready to be carved up for the annual feast. But I haven’t had a popover for decades, so the story in Yankee Magazine prompted some nostalgia for mom’s popovers.

Coastal Maine’s inspirational Common Good Soup Kitchen’s popovers, as described in Yankee Magazine, are hot and golden, with a perfect crunch on the outside, airy and tender on the inside- and even better with a dollop of house-made blueberry or strawberry jam. Mom’s were too and this recent Mother’s Day, this aging baby boomer decided to bake up some popovers.

And Common Good Soup Kitchen’s amazing all-volunteer staff, which bakes 400 to 500 popovers every day from mid-June through Columbus Day weekend for locals and summer people, is a story that deserves to be spread and perhaps become a model for other community soup kitchens. There are no prices set at the Maine soup kitchen, with customers invited to donate whatever they feel is appropriate.

So with the soup kitchen’s recipe in hand from Yankee Magazine as well as the popover recipe from the latest edition of  Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker (New York, NY: Scribner, 1997), an earlier edition of the cookbook was a favorite of dear mom, I decided to give it a try. I will confess, the first batch turned out like biscuits, not popovers, because I failed to use all purpose flour and in error used 100%  pastry flour.

Brochures printed up by the National Co+Op Grocers, available at my hometown food co-op, Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, include one on Flour. The descriptions provided under Types of wheat flours for all-purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour provided the explanation why the first batch did not rise up into high, crusty, hollow beauties in Joy of Cooking’s terminology.

Pastry flour or soft whole wheat flour is milled from soft winter wheat berries, a different variety of wheat than the one used for bread baking. It has the ability to absorb more fat making it ideal for pastry and cake making. All-purpose flour is a blend of pastry flour and refined bread flour, and the bread flour which is ground from hard red spring or hard red winter wheat berries made all the difference in turning out high, crusty, hollow beauties the second time around.

Despite this culinary error, baking up a batch of popovers is extraordinarily easy with simple ingredients if you have a popover pan. And The Cook’s Resource, Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Albany, NY had the perfect popover pan, USA Pan’s (A Bundy Family Company) six Wells, Commercial Bakeware. With its deep, conical wells, this pan produced beauties, though the wells are so deep, the soup kitchen’s recipe for 6 popovers only filled 3 of the wells with the proper amount of batter, according to the Joy of Cooking’s recommendation of two-thirds to three-quarters full. The soup kitchen’s recipe recommended filling the wells one-half full, and also noted that a muffin tin is fine-the results are just a little less lofty. But I decided to stick with lofty, and I was able to fill three of the wells about three-quarters full of batter, and a fourth well, almost one-half full. All popped over the pan, but three were truly lofty, and all delicious: flaky, eggy and tender inside (big-time comfort food).

Common Good Soup Kitchen serves up its popovers with a dollop of house-made blueberry or strawberry jam. I used delicious bionaturæ organic Bilberry Fruit Spread. (Bilberry fruit, similar to blueberries and blackberries, has been considered multi-nutrient rich, and particularly useful for the maintenance of eye health.)

The recipe below tweaks Common Good Soup Kitchen’s with some additional tips from the Joy of Cooking’s recipe. I also used locally sourced ingredients as noted.


2/3 cup all-purpose flour [Farmer Ground organic whole wheat, all purpose flour from Trumansburg (Tompkins County), NY]
2/3 cup milk [Maple Hill Creamery’s plain kefir from 100% grass-fed cows kefir milk (adding a little savory tang) from Kinderhook (Columbia County), NY]
3 large eggs [Skyhill farm eggs from Seward (Schoharie County), NY, whose 300 hens of 26 heritage breeds are free to wander and fly unrestricted, except on coldest, windiest days]
1/4 tsp salt [freshly ground, with a mortar and pestle, Himalayan pink sea salt crystals]
1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 thin slices [Kriemhild Meadow butter made with milk from the Hamilton (Madison County, NY) dairy farm’s grass-fed cows]

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Put popover pan in the oven while preparing the batter.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, milk, eggs and salt. (The recipe in Joy of Cooking specified only 2 eggs, but I used the extra egg and indulged in the eggier popovers.)

Remove the hot popover pan from the oven, and put a slice of butter into each well to melt. (I used only 4 of the pan’s 6 wells, so I put a sliver of butter in only 4 wells. Fill any unfilled cups one-third full with water so that the pan does not burn.

Divide the batter among the cups, filling them two-thirds to three-quarters of the way. (The soup kitchen’s recipe specifies filling the cups about halfway with batter, but I wanted loftier popovers and followed the Joy of Cooking direction, which resulted in two unfilled wells)

Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more until popovers are puffed and golden brown.

(Joy of Cooking notes: Do NOT open the oven to check the popovers until the last 5 minutes to avoid deflating them. I didn’t open the oven door until the baking time was complete. Instead, I turned on the oven light, and looked through the oven door’s glass window to gauge doneness and loftiness.)
The total baking time of 35 minutes specified above was just right: Perfect popovers.

(Frank W. Barrie, 5/17/18)

3 Cheers for Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde & His Canned Maryland Tomatoes: Know Where Your Tomatoes Come From

Maryland tomatoes grown on small farms can now be processed/canned in Baltimore thanks to efforts by Spike Gjerde of Woodbury Kitchen

The Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY sells three brands of canned organic tomatoes: two from Italy, Jovial and Bionaturae and Muir Glen’s California tomatoes

A fresh organic tomato in early spring, that tastes like a tomato should, and grown in soil (not hydroponically) from praiseworthy Long Wind Farm in Thetford, Vermont is a delicious (and nutritionally dense) treat

4 tomato seedlings get a head start on the growing season, with protection from cool nights and backyard ravenous squirrels, by use of Tomato Accelerator cages

The website for the farm to table restaurant Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland includes this impressive representation at its About Us tab:

All of the food on our menu was sourced directly from a local farmer or waterman. All of our spirits are from the US and their materials are thoughtfully sourced. All of our wines are organic, biodynamic or local, leaning towards the latter two. All of our beers are from farm breweries in Maryland. 

This commitment to source food from growers of the Chesapeake for its menu has expanded with the growing success of the restaurant’s Woodberry Pantry, a Maryland State approved canning facility, which creates products with the same commitment, as the restaurant, to Maryland farmers. The Pantry operation now supports a whole local economy of tomato growing and processing/canning in Baltimore, Maryland. Kudos for Spike Gjerde and the effort to develop new revenue sources for, in his words, our farmers.

This consumer purchased on a recent visit to the Washington, DC area at Little Red Fox, a market and coffee shop (which serves up a delicious breakfast), a 20 oz. can of Spike’s Maryland Tomatoes which details these Farm Facts for the tomatoes in the can: Smithburg, Maryland’s Hawbaker Farm, Harvested September ’16; Yield: 240,000 lbs from 4 acres. Ingredients clearly noted: Plum Tomatoes, Salt. And these growing practices specified: no synthetic fertilizers, non-GMO seed, vine-ripened without ethylene glycol added. Plus, the can has non-BPA lining.

On return home to upstate New York, some googling around for information on Hawbaker Farm did not disclose to what extent, if any, pesticides might be used in growing tomatoes on this farm near Smithsburg, Md. in Waynesboro, Pa. Yet a can of tomatoes with a state’s name proudly worn on its label, which demonstrates support for local agriculture and a small farm, and not some distant corporation focused on ever-increasing profits, is so unusual and praiseworthy, no regret for my purchase of Spike’s Maryland Tomatoes.

But with tomatoes appearing #9 on The Dirty Dozen, the Environmental Working Group’s ranking of fruits and vegetables to avoid because of pesticide residue levels, this consumer is cautious when purchasing canned tomatoes, and fortunately, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany, NY offers canned organic tomatoes, albeit not canned Hudson Valley New York tomatoes, but certified organic, from afar: two brands of tomatoes from Italy, Bionaturae and Jovial, and Muir Glen’s from California. On its label, Bionaturae describes its tomatoes as grown on small family farms and naturally ripened in the Mediterranean sunshine. Jovial’s label notes its sweet & pure tomatoes are grown on small farms in Tuscany and packed on the very same day they are harvested. Muir Glen describes its tomatoes as grown on organic farms where they’re drenched in California sunshine.

In this era when it’s wise to be skeptical about food labels, are these 3 brands of canned organic tomatoes really grown in soil? Vegetables grown in rich soil, full of micronutrients and microbial life, are superior (there are some 1030 microbes on Earth – that’s a nonillion of them, and rich soil contains abundant microbial life, not so with hydroponic agricultural practices).

Bionaturae on its website notes that the sun, soil and tomato varieties provide the best tomatoes in the world. Jovial states on its website that our organic tomatoes are grown on just one organic, family farm in Italy, lovingly cared for during the hot summer months. No mention of soil but a review of the tab on Jovial’s website for Our Story and the concern for farming and tradition suggests that its tomatoes are rooted in rich soil. Muir Glen’s Field to Can in 8 hours slogan also suggest that its tomatoes are grown in soil and on its website where it describes Our Principles, the company emphasizes that Caring for the earth while growing great tomatoes is just part of what we do every day and illustrates these words with a farmer’s hand holding dirt.

Inspirational and perhaps even approaching a little bit of magic, is to savor a fresh and organic tomato in early spring (especially after an extremely long winter in upstate New York) from a farm in even a colder climate zone than the Hudson Valley of upstate New York, and located nearly 150 miles northeast of Albany. This fresh tomato was one of very few in number, perhaps a dozen, spotted in the produce department of the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany. Let us praise Long Wind Farm (certified organic) in Thetford (Orange County), Vermont. Located in the northern reaches of the Connecticut River Valley, Long Wind Farm emphasizes that its certified organic tomatoes are grown in Vermont soil and taste like a tomato should (but seldom do).

In this era of ungrounded and manipulative marketing claims, Long Wind Farm deserves credit and praise when it notes:
Our tomatoes taste so good because we select our varieties based on flavor rather than appearance. Then we grow them with tender love in rich soil (rather than the hydroponic way in a bag of coconut coir). The result is the best tomato you can buy. 

Best tomato you can buy? I buy that claim. And the one tomato I savored in early spring cost $1.61, but worth every cent.

Most of the “organic” fresh tomatoes now sold in the supermarkets of the Northeast are actually hydroponically grown, usually in Mexico and Canada, with all of the tomato’s nutrition derived from a liquid feed, much like an IV tube, as noted by Long Wind Farm on its website. In fact, most of the world (including Canada and Mexico)  doesn’t allow hydroponic produce to be certified as organic, but in our United States they can be certified organic, as a result of a recent vote of the National Organic Standards Board. (Members of the NOSB voted 8 to 7 to reject a proposal that would disallow hydroponic and aquaponic farms from being certified organic.) Now the Keep the Soil in Organic movement is focusing on determining next steps and discussion focuses on creating a different label: Some want an add-on label that would stand for real organic. Some want a stand-alone label that has nothing to do with the National Organic Program. Some want to pursue the Regenerative Organic Label that Rodale is promoting.

With tomato weather approaching, this backyard gardener has gotten an early start, setting out four organic tomato seedlings early in the growing season. The seedlings from Farm At Miller’s Crossing in Hudson (Columbia County, NY) are a range of varieties: Red Zebra (dark red fruit, gold streaked), Costoluto Genovese red paste type, Sun Gold cherry, and Lucky Tiger cherry, all for sale at the plant department of the Honest Weight Food Co-op. With nights still chilly, pop-up Tomato Accelerators (from Gardener’s Supply Company) get zipped up as the sun goes down in order to start the growing season early before hot tomato weather arrives.

Here’s to summer’s bounty and fresh, organic tomatoes grown in rich soil!

(Frank W. Barrie, 5/10/18)

How to Grow, Harvest & Cook Whole Grains: Clear Advice From An Expert

Sara Pitzer’s expert advice on how to Grow, Harvest & Cook Whole Grains in an updated edition, beautifully illustrated by Elayne Sears

With nearly 1,000 bins of bulk food, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY offers all of the grains covered in the nine Chapter Headings of Sara Pitzer’s Homegrown Whole Grains: 1) barley, 2) buckwheat, 3) corn, 4) heirloom grains (amaranth, quinoa, spelt, emmer faro, einkorn), 5) millet, 6) oats, 7) rice, 8) rye and 9) wheat. And all are organic: Wow!

If you are an avid baker, wanting to take your bread baking to the next level or perhaps a locavore looking for the next food frontier in taste . . . or if you’re simply interested in learning more about the grains we take for granted, then Sara Pitzer’s Homegrown Whole Grains, Grow, Harvest & Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn & More (Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, 2009) deserves a place in your library.

We don’t think twice about growing green beans, sweet corn or tomatoes in a vegetable garden. So why not wheat or rye or spelt?

While reading Amy Halloran’s The New Bread Basket, How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf  for purposes of a book review on this website, I became curious about growing grains in my backyard garden in rural Albany County in upstate New York. After all, upstate New York was the breadbasket of America until the Erie Canal in the early 19th century opened up the vast and fertile Midwest to cultivation. In our time, the fertile midwest has become the locus for the industrial-sized, mono crop growing of commodity wheat, corn and soy, with the main focus on economics and profits overwhelming concerns for taste, freshness, and bio-diversity.

In Sara Pitzer’s introduction to Homegrown Whole Grains (which is actually a new, updated edition of her Whole Grains, Grow, Harvest & Cook Your Own, written nearly thirty years ago and published by Garden Way, Inc. in 1981), she explains that the first version was written during the back-to-the-land era when “hippie food” was long on nutrition and short on taste. This new, updated edition was written for a new generation of local food enthusiasts. It is a concise manual for growing, harvesting, and cooking homegrown grains.

Organized by type of grain, Pitzer outlines seed sources, culture requirements, possible pests and diseases, best ways to process the harvest, and a collection of kitchen-tested recipes. Her descriptions and yield expectations are based on a modest-size plot of 100 square feet, right-sized for many backyards. She cautions that while growing grain is fairly easy, threshing, winnowing, and hulling take lots of energy, verging on brute force.

Some gardeners may prefer to plant grains as cover crops, or simply to buy unprocessed organic grains in the bulk department of a local food co-op. Wherever you enter the process, Pitzer has clear, practical advice and sources for buying, storing, grinding, and cooking a wide variety of grains: barley, buckwheat, corn, amaranth, quinoa, spelt, emmer farro, einkorn, millet, oats, rice, rye, or wheat. Between each well-organized grain section are inspirational profiles of grain “enthusiasts” from around the country.

The final Resources section includes sources for seeds, hand mills, advocacy groups, and more books. Though I probably won’t be growing grains in my backyard any time soon, I do plan to keep Homegrown Whole Grains on my cookbook shelf for its simple and clear recipes and nutritional information.

A perfect companion to The New Bread Basket, Sara Pitzer deserves much credit for providing guidance in Homegrown Whole Grains on what to do with all those mystery grains in the bulk food department of a food co-op, like that of the remarkable Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, with its nearly 1,000 bins of bulk food.

(Laura Shore, 5/1/18)

[Editor’s Note (FWB): Coincidentally, the current issue of New York Archives magazine (Spring 2018) includes an article by Amy Halloran, whose The New Bread Basket is spotlighted above, on how the Erie Canal “changed patterns of farming and milling in early America.” In her well-researched article for the magazine, Daily Bread, The Erie Canal Forged A Path For Amber Waves Of Grain, on New York’s history of grains, Halloran noted that the Erie Canal “set the stage for a centralized food system and industrial scale agriculture.” Referencing Andrew F. Smith’s Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine (Columbia University Press, New York, 2009), Halloran pointed cogently to the moment when she was able to wrap her head around the realization that the efficacy of the transportation grid, starting with the Erie Canal in the early 19th century, cast aside the idea that food had to be purchased from nearby farms or farmers markets. The habit of buying locally was replaced early-on in American food history by a mandate of buying cheaply from afar.]

Impressive Farm-To-Table Dining At Hotel Restaurants

Inn At The Common, a renovated 1960s motor inn in Medford, Oregon, features farm to table dining at its wonderful Larks Restaurant

A delicious first course: the farm plate with local cheeses, various pickles, charcuterie (prepared in-house) featured slices of bresaola, smoked salmon and pork belly

Warm, fluffy pretzels accompanied sweet, hand-stuffed sausage atop brussels sprout sauerkraut, with a flavorful mustard seed fondue for dipping-WOW!

Wild caught Snake River sturgeon with asparagus, mushroom risotto and capers was a phenomenal evening special…

No room for dessert after the deliciously filling sweet potato gnocchi with pork belly, goat cheese, beets, brussels sprouts

A Business Traveller article published on-line by CNN Travel (and updated this spring) has spotlighted resorts and hotels that grow their own food. Reporter Allison Tibaldi’s Farm-to-hotel: 10 resorts [and hotels] that grow their own food includes four destination resorts in the United States: The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania; Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee; Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Amelia Island, Florida; and Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock, Vermont.

Two destination resorts included in the list are in tropical areas, Chablé Resort and Spa in Chochola, Yucatan, Mexico; and Petit St. Vincent in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and one in Canada, Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, British Columbia.

Also included in the Business Traveller list are three hotels: Crosby Street Hotel in NYC, which has a rooftop home for a lovingly nourished urban fruit and vegetable patch; The Fairmont San Francisco which maintains a 1,000-square-foot garden including a wild bee hotel producing the hotel’s prized honey; and Congress Hall in Cape May, New Jersey which operates nearby the 62-acre Beach Plum Farm, nestled in protected wetlands.

Recently, our contributor, Lucas Knapp, enjoyed dinner at Larks Restaurant in Medford, Oregon, a dining destination which is located at the Inn At The Common in southern Oregon, a rural part of the state that is home to rolling orchards, vineyards, and a steadily growing community of farmers and food purveyors dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices. Less exclusive and more affordable than the resorts and hotels included in the Business Traveller article (and easily patronized by a local resident), the Home Kitchen Cuisine offered by Larks Restaurant, located in a renovated 1960s motor inn, also confirms that creative hotel dining, is taking root in the downtown of a small city, in this case inspired by the bountiful agricultural riches of southern Oregon.

Here’s Lucas Knapp’s review of his recent meal:

Our night at Larks began with a cheerful redheaded waiter who brought us rosemary ciabatta from Rise Up! Artisan Bread, the very local bakery of Full Bloom, an intentional community in Oregon’s Little Applegate River region. The Full Bloom community is dedicated to slow food, fair wages, and community activism.

This sentiment is shared by many of Southern Oregon’s local food purveyors, like Wildcraft Cider Works, a local cidery in Eugene, OR. We had their excellent peach cider at dinner, tart, crisp and refreshing. Their mission as stewards of the outdoors informs their commitment to ensure their ingredients are always regional. Our delicious meal that followed substantiated they’re not alone.

For a first course, we sampled a handful of other purveyors committed to the same ideal. The farm plate, a curation of various pickles and charcuterie prepared in-house, and local cheeses, featured slices of bresaola, accompanied by smoked salmon from the Oregon coast and pork belly from Carlton Farms in Carlton, OR.

As we noshed on Walla Walla Cheese Company (Milton-Freewater, OR) Drunken Dragon Cheese and By George Farm (Little Applegate, OR) cheese, chef Maggie Trujillo, who was born in Idaho and trained in culinary school in Portland, OR, stopped by to elaborate on the various techniques utilized in the kitchen. Take the bresaola, for example. Trujillo cures a New York steak from Cedar River Farms in Colorado, marinates it in wine, then dries and hangs it for six weeks. The Carlton Farms pork belly is similarly prepared, cured in-house, smoked, then sous vide for 24 hours. Trujillo’s enthusiasm for real food, mindfully grown and raised, was palpable, and she proudly noted how Lark’s is a 100% scratch kitchen.

Our next plate, the chicken and apple sausage with pretzel bites, demonstrated that devotion. Warm, fluffy pretzels sat alongside a sweet, hand-stuffed sausage, with a mustard seed fondue for dipping and brussels sprout kraut that made the dish a pleasure to share.

Our dinners highlighted Oregon’s local food strengths. The evening special—wild caught Snake River sturgeon with asparagus, mushroom risotto and capers—was phenomenal: flaky yet hearty, with flavor bursting in each bite. The sweet potato gnocchi with pork belly, goat cheese, beets, brussels sprouts and sage brown butter was so deliciously filling we had to take it to go and decline dessert! The mushrooms came from wherever the local mushroom hunters had been that day, keeping the locations of their bounty secret. Every dish served at Larks Restaurant included elements from a number of local producers, like organic vegetables from Barking Moon Farms or One Leaf Farm, Rogue Creamery dairy products, and microgreens from Terra Sol Organics.

We finished the evening with a sip of Noble Coffee, a roaster in Ashland, OR that prides itself on using the highest quality coffee beans from organic and sustainable farms.

Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine is also offered at the Ashland Springs Hotel in Ashland, Oregon, a sister hotel of Medford’s Inn at the Commons.

[Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine, 200 N. Riverside Avenue (Inn at the Commons), 541.774.4760, Brunch: Sat & Sun 11:00AM-2:00PM, Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30AM-2:00PM, Supper: Sun-Thur 5:00PM-8:00PM, Fri & Sat 5:00PM-9:00PM

(Lucas Knapp & Frank W. Barrie, 4/26/18)

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