Sustainable soul mates gather to eat drink and be berry

catherine-kaufmanBy Catharine Kaufman

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” ~Alfred E. Newman

Last week’s “A Berry Good Night,” the third annual farm-to-table extravaganza in La Jolla, was like Cirque du Soleil meets Top Chef at the organic farmers market along the sweeping Pacific.

The locavore summer soiree was directed, produced and graciously hosted by sustainable food activist and owner of Cups Culinary, Michelle Lerach, at her jaw-droppingly gorgeous estate — complete with organic orchards and pasture-roaming chickens.

The attendee-list read like a Who’s Who of kindred spirits, including two dozen socially-conscious local chefs, dedicated organic farmers, ranchers, purveyors, artisans, winemakers, brewers and kitschy mixologists breaking GMO-free bread together.

Every scrumptious ingredient in the feast — reminiscent of a Romanesque food and wine orgy —was sourced within 100 miles of San Diego, and every dish in keeping with the “berry” theme had a motherload of antioxidant-rich raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries enlivening sweet and savory concoctions.

Keep these local gems on your organic radar screen:

• Stehly Farms,

northeast of Escondido, grows 40 classic SoCal crops of Valencia oranges, Meyer lemons and Haas avocados, along with exotics like Dragon fruit.

• Be Wise Ranch,

in the Rancho Bernardo/Escondido neighborhoods, is headed by pioneer organic farmer Bill Brammer, who has been growing pesticide-free produce since 1977. Be Wise offers 50 varieties of produce from Technicolor heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs to strawberries, pluots and cherries so sweet they could be charged with impersonating candy.

• Suzie’s Farm,

in south Imperial Beach, grows 100 different varieties of mostly veggies, their summer calling card: 20 varieties of peppers.

• Seabreeze Organic Farm,

in south Carmel Valley, has been growing a bounty of organic crops since 1988 from avocadoes to zucchini, organic coffee, raw honey and edible petals.

Be Wise, Suzie’s and Seabreeze are also members of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, delivering weekly organic goodie baskets to designated pick-up points or directly to households throughout San Diego.

• Chino Farms,

in Rancho Santa Fe, provides both celebrity and armchair chefs bountiful beauts of Jerusalem artichokes, micro greens, diminutive decorative squashes, signature strawberries and assorted tree fruits.

• SonRise Ranch

produces humanely-raised livestock, like grass-fed cattle, and free-range chicks and pigs without hormonal or antibiotic intervention. You can bring home their bacon from various famers markets around town.

• Other socially-conscious ranchers include

Brandt Beef, Shelton Farms and TAJ Farms.

• San Diego-based

Catalina Offshore Products

distributes a treasure trove of oceanic treats from So Cal and Baja fishermen, including jumbo scallops, lobster, masago and stone crab.

The evening’s 11-course international menu, coordinated by Chef Jesus Gonzalez from Cups Culinary, included Girard Gourmet’s blueberry foccaccio bread dipped in liquid gold from Temecula Olive Oil; oxtail ramen with strawberries (a collaboration of Chefs Joe Magnanelli and Ayurvedic guru Jeff Gage); spicy grilled seitin with Korean-style barbecue (Sea Rocket Bistro Chef Tommy Fraioli and Brooklyn Girl’s Tyler Thrasher); tamale with carnitas and mixed berry pico de gallo (Chef Isabel Cruz of Barrio Star); rabbit with carbonated boysenberries (Sea Rocket’s Chad White and Beaumont Eatery’s George Morris); and for your just desserts, cacao-frosted raw brownies with warm berry galette by raw food guru Joy Houston; washed down with a smooth cup of organic jo by Revolution Roasters.

Knock-Your-Flip-Flops-Off Mixed Berry Salsa

My sustainable summer contribution is a berry salsa as divine on flaxseed crackers as piled high on grilled wild-caught salmon fillets.


1 cup each fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, thinly sliced

1 cup Persian cucumbers, chopped

1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced

1/2 cup red onion, minced

3 tablespoons fresh mint or cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons each lime and orange juice

4 tablespoons agave syrup

Method: Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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