Sowing the seeds of spring
When etoile Restaurant Executive Chef Perry Hoffman isnâ€™t in the kitchen, you can often find him tending the onsite the garden. For years, he and his team have harvesting fresh, organic fruits and vegetables from the etoile Restaurant garden, taking ingredients from farm to table in mere hours.
When etoile Restaurant Chef Perry Hoffman isnâ€™t in the kitchen, you can often find him tending the onsite the garden. For years, he and his team have harvesting fresh, organic fruits and vegetables from the etoile Restaurant garden, taking ingredients from farm to table in mere hours.
He readily admits, â€śWeâ€™re cooks first, not gardeners.â€ť Thatâ€™s why heâ€™s so excited to have added a full-time, professional gardener to his kitchen staff. He helps the restaurantâ€™s plots flourish and tending to a new half acre of land etoile Restaurant recently acquired on Chandonâ€™s Carneros vineyard property, dubbed the etoile Kitchen Farm.
We recently caught up with Perry after a garden produce meeting, where he and his team discuss strategy, and map out a harvest and menu plan. â€śWe sit with the gardener a couple days a week, have a schedule made of what the gardenâ€™s harvesting and plan our menus around it.â€ť
Home Growing: Better than buying
For freshness and flavor, you simply cannot beat growing your own edible garden, and etoile Restaurantâ€™s diners reap the delicious benefits. â€śWe can grow things we could never buy,â€ť says Hoffman. â€śFor example, we might take carrots and onions out of the ground after only 20 days, so theyâ€™re young and miniature. We grow these incredible ingredients and garnishes weâ€™d otherwise have to buy after theyâ€™d been stored in greenhouses and traveled from the Midwest.â€ť
True to Chandonâ€™s sustainability ethos, the etoile garden is focused on minimizing waste, and maximizing every resource. â€śCompost is great for us in the kitchen. We have tons of excess wasteâ€”onion peels, potato skins, fava bean shells, which have so much nitrogenâ€”and we have a full compost system. Weâ€™re able to return it to the ground, so itâ€™s this great system.â€ť
Tips for the at-home green-thumb
Springâ€”early to mid-April in particularâ€”is the ideal time of year to prep your garden for a bountiful harvest. Pick your plot of land, clear away the weeds, till a good amount of fresh soil and compost into the ground, and get ready to plant your seeds or starters. Perry has two key pieces of advice for home gardeners: Be patient, and start small.
â€śDonâ€™t rush. Right now, as much as we want to get a garden planted, itâ€™s raining and thereâ€™s just no reason to. The soilâ€™s wet, the rain is coming down and weâ€™d probably lose everything to seed rot. So weâ€™ll wait. And donâ€™t plan too big. Only grow what youâ€™re capable of using. The most frustrating thing is to plant, not have enough time to harvest, and run the risk of wasting a plant.â€ť
Perryâ€™s a big fan of the easily grown home garden staples, such as squash, greens, herbs and tomatoes. But thereâ€™s one hardy, versatile veggie many gardeners overlook. â€śItâ€™s incredibly easy to grow cucumbers. We make little cucumber relishes, cucumber soups, cucumber liquids. Then, if you have too many, you just make pickles.â€ť Perry suggest trellising cucumber plants to keep them off the ground, and adding the cucumbers to any dish you can think of, from sushi to braised rabbit.
One to try
Anyone who has grown squash knows the plant is hearty, and produces abundantly. It can be tough to figure out how to use all the fruits of your labors. Perryâ€™s secret? Donâ€™t cook it at all.
â€śWeâ€™ll shave it paper thin on a mandolin, raw, and dress it with vinaigrette and great Spanish manchego and herbs, with some citrus, and have this great, really refreshing shaved squash salad where itâ€™s all paper thin shaved and completely raw. Itâ€™s just a fantastic way to eat squash.â€ť
Find Perryâ€™s Shaved Summer Squash recipe here, and happy gardening!
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