Look closely at that bowl of beautiful, baby salad greens.
If only you could reach out and grab a few leaves to taste, you’d be amazed at their sweetness, pepperiness and all-around intensity of flavor.
What makes these lettuces different is that all were grown indoors under LED lights, using a fraction of the water a conventional outdoor farm would.
Ecopia Farms in Campbell is unlike any other agricultural endeavor — housed indoors in a non-descript, out-of-the-way warehouse in Campbell.
Utilizing the latest technology and know-how, it was founded by a couple of tech giants: a former CEO of Solectron, and a former president of Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space.
With water and land increasingly precious commodities, their goal is to create a way of farming that is not only more efficient and sustainable, but replicable in high-density urban areas.
No matter where you dine in the Bay Area, you’d be hard pressed to find a menu that did not have this particular lettuce gracing it.
Whether served cold and crisp in a salad or braised or grilled in a main dish, Little Gem lettuce is the new darling ingredient that chefs and diners just can’t seem to get enough of. Whether at Frances in San Francisco, Redd Wood in Yountville, Camino in Oakland or Mamacita in San Francisco, Little Gem is sure to be there front and center.
When you’re the son of rock legend Neil Young, it might be expected if you rested comfortably on your father’s laurels.
When you’re his son and born with cerebral palsy, which has left you wheelchair-bound and able to communicate only with a computer device, it would be understandable if you were at all reclusive.
But that’s not Ben Young, 33, the middle child of the famed singer-songwriter.
Thirteen years ago, Young started an egg farm called Coastside Farms on three acres of his family’s La Honda property. In 2002, it was certified organic. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit him there.
Today, he raises about 250 Red Sex-Links, similar to Rhode Island Reds, which have the run of the place under the close watch of a herd of adorable alpacas who guard them against predators.
He sells the eggs, with their glorious deep orange yolks, to Calafia Cafe in Palo Alto and Cafe Gibraltar in El Granada, where he makes deliveries each week with the help of his assistant.
I’m not usually met with protesters when I go out to dinner.
But such was the case last Thursday night at the “FU Foie Gras” dinner at Lafitte in San Francisco, where 10 peaceful protesters held up signs outside the restaurant, imploring people to stop eating foie gras, the luxurious fattened liver of a goose or duck.
If you’re a fan of that rich delicacy, you better enjoy it while you can. Come July 1, California will become the only state in the nation to ban the sale of foie gras.
Animal welfare supporters, many of whom have been picketing restaurants that have foie on the menu, applaud the upcoming law that will stop what they believe is inhumane treatment of the birds, which are speed-fed with a tube down their throat to engorge their liver. But many chefs are rallying against the law, which they believe is unnecessary and unfair. A number of them, including Lafitte’s Chef-Proprietor Russell Jackson, have visited foie gras farms in the United States and found no such mistreatment, especially because ducks have no gag reflex, breathe through their tongue, and naturally increase their consumption when they migrate.
There are only three major producers of foie gras in the United States. Two are in New York: Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farm. And only one is in California: Sonoma Foie Gras.
Since late last year, restaurants throughout the state have been hosting special foie gras dinners to educate the public and build grassroots support for the pricey ingredient that’s been produced as far back as ancient Egyptian times. Proceeds have gone to support CHEFS (Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards), a pro-foie advocacy group made up of restaurateurs and other culinary professionals.
The chef who co-founded Lark Creek Restaurant Group in the Bay Area and made farm-to-table cooking his mantra long before it was fashionable, has returned to the Bay Area after being gone for eight years.
Bradley Ogden, who most recently opened Root 246 restaurant in Solvang, moved to San Jose’s Evergreen district in January to start a new phase in his culinary career. It includes a new multimedia company with partner Chris Kelly, Facebook’s first general consul.
In the works is a new cooking show, “Real Food with Chef Bradley Ogden,” which will be shopped around to various TV networks. I got a sneak peek on Super Bowl Sunday, when Ogden invited me and a host of friends to his home for a cooking extravaganza, which was filmed in part for his show.