Monday, November 2, 2009

Central Coast Sunday

Fresh farm foods, good wine, beautiful scenery. There are plenty of reasons to get in the car and head north on the 101 on the weekend. The Santa Barbara Farmers Market is held every Saturday, just off State Street. Many of the farmers whose stands I visit are there every weekend. If you like a one-stop location for your shopping, then certainly put this FM on your list. I prefer to meander, happening upon stands or searching out ones I've researched.

Sunday morning we passed a small, beat-up pick-up truck making its way to a farmers market, its bed jammed with fresh pineapples. Made me think about making pineapple rum cake, which I will bake later this week.

We passed McGrath Family Farm in Oxnard. For over 100 years, the McGrath Family has been farming in the Oxnard region. Shoppers who visit the farmers markets in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica know the produce from this farm very well. It's a great stop, just off the 101. You can buy organic produce at their Farm Center and even pick your own produce from their fields. Great stop if you have children with animal tours available.

We stopped in Goleta briefly, in search of the farmers market. Our hope was to track down the pineapple truck. Never found them. Not the farmers market. Not the pineapples. I blame Google Maps....

Just north of the Gaviota Pass is one of my favorite farm stands in the country, Classic Organic. You can see it, just off the 101, on Old Coast Highway. Just follow the road to the first barn with a peace sign painted on the side, for some of the tastiest produce in the state. Bins spill over with seasonal foods, while a black cat sleeps soundly near the chest holding fresh eggs. On Sunday, the outside bins were piled high with all types of squash, including pumpkins and gourds. We ran into owner Helmut, which was lovely, as we've never met him before. Told him we've been following the farm's Facebook page.

We bought butternut squash, a pumpkin, spaghetti squash, carrots, red chili peppers, a massive bunch of cilantro (for a dollar!), and some candy onions. Made the spaghetti squash today. Such a fun and silly food. Kids should absolutely love eating this wonderfully stringy squash. You'll find my simple recipe at the end of this article.

We get back on the 101 and head north, passing Restoration Oaks Ranch and recall all the tasty dishes we made last spring from the blueberries we purchased there. Shuttered until 2010. We'll be there opening weekend.

Exciting news! The Family Ranch apple stand on the 101 in Buellton is open for business! We pulled in and bought 5 pounds of Granny Smith apples, a jar of homemade apple butter, and a jar of wild blueberry preserves. The owner picks the blueberries down by a stream near their home. We tasted both this morning and they are so delicious. Nothing beats homemade preserves and spreads.

We decided to check out a new wine tasting and dining spot in Buellton, Avant Tapas and Wine. This is also a wine crush facility and quite a few winemakers are making their wine at Terravant Wine Company now. Check out Randy Fuller's piece on Avant at and

We grabbed a two-top table in the expansive Avant tasting and dining room, with a view of the Santa Rita Hills. From this vantage point, you're looking at the beginning of the Santa Rita AVA. The colors of the leaves were so varied and vibrant including chartreuse, marigold, faded lime, apricot, ochre, burnt umber, and cotton-topped scrub. The Santa Ynez River is hidden within these trees, as well.

We ordered five dishes from Avant's tapas menu including a pizza, duck confit, olives and almonds, and a couple cheese dishes. The pizza was a real standout, with thin crust that had just the right salty snap. As our server said, "The wood-fired oven makes all the difference." Wish we had one in our home! Duck Confit with Kombucha Squash, and Currants is really a perfect autumn dish. Nice menu, which I feel is still evolving and I am really looking forward to following its growth. Randy Fuller talks about wine pairings for these dishes in his article about this trip.

Our last stop is the farm stand on Alamo Pintada Road, just across from Buttonwood Farms and Winery in Solvang. This is our strawberry stop. These folks sell some of the biggest and juiciest strawberries in the region. We always pick up other produce including their corn in season. I bought 3 beautiful poblano chilies, which I am going to stuff with rice, some other goodies and lace with a cream sauce. You'll find that recipe on my blog later this week.

A one day trip. Home sated and happy. Looking forward to making all these incredibly fresh and tasty dishes.

Any questions? Please contact me at


Serves 2

1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons chestnut honey
2 tablespoon butter
1 healthy pinch cayenne pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the spaghetti squash in two. Easiest way to do this is place a knife at the middle point of the squash and tap with a mallet.

In a small saucepan melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter and two tablespoons of chestnut honey. You can use any type of honey you like, but this is my favorite. You can buy it online from a number of sources including La Tienda and Bella Cucina. Add a decent-size pinch of cayenne pepper and cook over low heat until melted and combined.

Place a cup of water in a small baking dish and add the squash. Pour the honey-butter mixture equally into each piece of squash. Drizzle some over the rim of the squash, too. Place in lowest oven rack and bake for about 50 minutes. Add more water, if it completely evaporates. Remove, let the squash cool, and serve.

You can sprinkle some brown sugar over the rim of the squash when you've finished cooking it, as well.

1 comment:

  1. So do you have two blogs now? I can't keep up with you!