As luck would have it, real life was interrupted for me recently by a pursuit of passion as I happily attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference held in San Francisco in an effort to expand my food writing horizons.
A particularly interesting panel discussion consisted of an array of experts in the field discussing what they felt to be “How California Changed the World of Food and Still Does”, moderated by Gastronomica Editor Darra Goldstein.
The cast of characters included Joyce Goldstein, author of Inside the California Food Revolution , Andrew Griffin, owner of Mariquita Farm, Sue Conley, founder of Cowgirl Creamery, Sam Mogannam, owner of Bi-Rite Foods, Laurence Jossel, Executive Chef/ Partner at Nopa, Samin Nosrat, chef/writer/teacher and Kenny Belov, fisherman, restaurateur and seafood wholesaler .
Boiling it down to a cuisine of fresh, seasonal ingredients preferably raised nearby, Joyce Goldstein used a variety of terms like: in season, ingredient-based, organic, from the farm, live fire, open kitchen, fusion and daily menus to describe the California Cuisine Revolution.
From growing the very best organic produce to educating grocery shoppers on what to eat and how to cook it to completing the circle on farm to table food, each of the panelists has made it their mission in life to use food to bring people together and make good food accessible to all.
I would have been content to sit and listen to their inspiring stories all day long, but alas, all good things come to an end. Before I knew it, time was up, the session was over, and Darra was thanking the panelists and sending us off.
A mid-day break in the schedule was my chance to scurry over to the Ferry Building and set off on the scavenger hunt of ingredients I had been scribbling down throughout the discussion. A chunk of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market, and a visit to Bi-Rite to check out locally sourced products to create something fresh and fabulous when I got home the next day and got back in the kitchen.
Having heard Andrew Griffin’s story of how small farmers in California put the tender garden salad we now know as mesclun on the map, it seemed only fitting to build a Best of California Cuisine Salad to salute the California Cuisine Revolution. Treasures collected at the Ferry Building included a wedge of Point Reyes blue cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, a package of red Livermore walnuts from G.L. Alfieri Premium Nuts and Fruit and an exceptionally crisp and juicy Aztec Fuji apple from the Farmer’s Market, which would complement each other nicely on my Best of California Cuisine Salad, I thought.
A fun foodie field trip to Bi-Rite Market later that afternoon had me scanning the shelves stocked with locally made ingredients to find components for a delicious dressing. Chef Laurence Jossel’s advice to “get out of the way of the ingredients” guided my decision-making and after much consideration, I left the marvelous market with a small bottle of Lovers Lane Farm 100% pure unfiltered North coast wildflower honey and a jar of Mendocino Hot and Sweet Mustard Hand-prepared in Mendocino since 1977, to whisk together (with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar) to create a pure and simple honey mustard dressing.
Closer to home, our very own Wines by Wednesday (512 3rd Avenue South) will have Point Reyes blue cheese in their cheese case this week, and you could easily substitute local honey from Smoot Honey out of Power, Montana for the dressing. Soon enough we’ll be able to source local greens at our Farmer’s Market, helping to support our local area farmers.
Keep it simple using fresh, fabulous, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients representative of California cuisine and get out of the way of the ingredients to let them shine just the way they are with this week’s Special of the day: A Nod to California Cuisine and recipe for Best of California Cuisine Salad. Enjoy!
Best of California Cuisine Salad
Recipe by Sydne George
(makes 2 dinner salads)
Make the Lover’s Lane Honey-Mendocino Mustard Dressing:
In a small jar shake add:
1 tbsp. Mendocino Hot and Sweet Mustard (or other sweet and spicy mustard)
1 tbsp. Lover’s Lane Honey
1 ½ tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
Shake vigorously until well mixed, stirring, if necessary.
Toss dressing with 2 cups fresh baby greens until incorporated.
Distribute dressed salad among two salad plates.
Slice Point Reyes blue cheese and arrange atop salad greens.
Slice Aztec Fuji apple (or other crisp apple) into thin matchsticks with sharp knife.
Arrange atop salad greens.
Sprinkle Livermore walnuts (also available at Front Street Market in Butte) over salad.
Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.