Something in Season Dinner: Back to Davis

June 27th, 2007 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, Davis, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free Dining 5 Comments »

scampi11.jpgsomethinginseasondinner.jpg Some time back I was reading Brendon’s blog over at Something in Season and came across an announcement for the Something in Season Dinner he proposed to host at the Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe in Davis, California. I’ve enjoyed his blog and its fresh, seasonal approach to food as well as its wit (lawnmower grass clippings saute, anyone?) for some time now, and my last visit to Davis and the Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe was so much fun I couldn’t resist. DH and I made the drive to Davis and enjoyed the company of our fellow food bloggers, including Elise of Simply Recipes and of course, Brendon of Something in Season. The company was delightful and the food and wine thoughtfully provided by Brendon was absolutely scrumptious. Because of the intimate size of the gathering, we ended up all ordering off the menu, which means that should you find yourself in front of Rose Anne ’s establishment in Davis, California you too can experience the exact same culinary experience, without needing to get together a group of your fellow bloggers. The food is more fun in the company of foodies, however.

We began the meal with some guacamole and seasonal vegetables, accompanied by individual servings of olives and pickled peppers. (Please say five times fast.) bioregionalrings.jpg When Rose Anne told us about the gluten free onion rings on the day’s menu, there was no question but that we must have two orders of them- I don’t know about you but it was my first time ever finding gluten free onion rings anywhere but homemade on my own kitchen counter. We also pretty much unanimously ordered the Bio-Regional Salad, something I had considered at our previous visit but hadn’t ordered. This amazing salad is made of the most delicious local, organic produce available that day- ours had Local Organic Mixed Greens, Local Organic Arugula, Local Rainier Cherries, Local Strawberries, Local Organic Carrots, Local Green Beans, Local Organic Grapefruit, Local Organic Sweet Onions, Local Organic Pickled Beets, and Feta with Local Walnuts. (Or so my slightly fuzzy memory would have me believe- but if you order it, your salad will be slightly different, anyway.) I chose the soy ginger dressing, and it was absolutely fabulous. I might even say, I don’t know when I’ve ever had a better salad. The only slightly sour note was the grapefruit. I’m not the best of friends with grapefruit, and it seemed to clash with the other flavors of the salad and dressing. Luckily there were so many ingredients to choose from, I just let the grapefruit linger unloved on the plate with no hard feelings. Brendon ordered the squash soup of the day, and we all had a taste- it was beautifully seasoned and seemed to have a rich coconut milk base that made even humble squash seem exotic and flavorful.

scampi3.jpg For the entree, again we almost unanimously ordered the Shrimp Scampi w/ Local Organic Parsley and Homemade Fettucine. After all, how many opportunities do you get for gluten free homemade pasta not produced in your own mixer? DH asked me to select something for him, so I chose the enticing Homemade Local Organic Green Garlic Ravioli w/ Organic Marinara Sauce. When the shrimp scampi arrived, it was not only absolutely gorgeous, but had an amazing garlic infused sauce, paired with a generous serving of large shrimp. DH’s Ravioli was also appetizing, with charming half moon shaped ravioli unlike the square ravioli I tend to make. It was covered in a thick, sweet, organic tomato marinara. Everything had been such generous portions that I have to admit, by the time our main entrees arrived we could only sample it, but they were so wonderful I really wished I had still been hungry. The shrimp scampi was exactly to my taste, with roasted garlic flavor throughout that perfectly accented the sweet, robust shrimp. DH was slightly less enamored with his ravioli, saying that the sauce was a little sweet for his taste, but it was otherwise quite good. Personally I enjoyed the chunky texture of the sauce, but did find that the savory garlic sauce more perfectly suited my own palate. Also, the green ravioli filling was slightly overshadowed by the sauce. Actually, I would have loved to try the ravioli without the marinara, perhaps in a light garlic sauce. ravioli.jpg Nevertheless, the texture of the gluten free pasta at the Farmer’s Cafe is absolutely amazing, and the luxury of having real homemade pasta that you didn’t make yourself, and in such generous quantity, can’t be beat. You can also purchase their homemade pasta, and apparently Rose Anne has some clients who buy the pasta that aren’t even gluten free. As our non gluten free diners at the table agreed, it really is indistinguishable from gluten pasta, which fits in with Rose Anne’s food philosophy. As she put it, while all the food is gluten free with very few exceptions (such as a gluten bread option), the point is that it is all the food is made from local, organic, seasonal ingredients that tastes as good if not better than their gluten counterpart. She doesn’t advertise it as a gluten free restaurant per say, and thus non gluten free clients come in and are wowed not because it’s weird, gluten free food, but are wowed because it tastes great and is good for you. It is difficult for a restaurant to survive on the patronage of gluten free customers alone, and I think this is why Rose Anne’s cafe has been such a success over the years- because it’s not just good gluten free food, it’s good, healthy food.

Personally, I can’t wait to go back. I almost appreciated my leftover pasta more after the fact, as I ate it at my own table at home. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as eating a delicious “home cooked” meal with fresh pasta that I didn’t lift a finger to make! The next time you are longing for the holy grails of gluten free dining such as homemade pasta and onion rings, why not take a little trip to Davis California? Your taste buds will thank you- and when you’re done, you can enjoy wandering around the charming college environment of the city of Davis.

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Gluten Free Dining Adventures- Welcome to Davis, California

April 2nd, 2007 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, Davis, Gluten Free Dining, Sacramento, Tahoe 8 Comments »

farmersmenu2html.jpg This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a truly unique restaurant and bakery located in Davis, California called The Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe. I had first heard about this restaurant on the CeliacBayArea Yahoo message board, where people had reported really enjoying a place where they could eat everything on the menu. One woman reported that she was practically in tears over the sheer selection. I know the feeling well. They change their menu daily, but generally have good gluten free sandwiches, salads, beautiful soups, ravioli, quiche, pizza, chicken pot pie, and the like. They also sell homemade baked goods in their dedicated kitchen, including bagels, hamburger buns, cookies, and homemade pasta. They are affiliated with the small health food store next door, Natural Food Works, which largely carries vitamins, beauty products, and an amazing selection of bulk herbs. They do carry a few ener-g bars and gluten free mixes such as Namaste and Bob’s Red Mill. Natural Food Works has been in business since 1972, so it seems as though (happily) they are here for the long haul.

Although it was really difficult to pick from all the choices, I ended up going with a personal veggie pizza (veggies, pesto sauce, mozzarella and feta), the Portobello Mushroom Sandwich du Jour, and (we were planning to take this to go) a Torte de Blette with chard and apples. I always like to compare gluten free pizza crusts looking for the best one, and GF sandwiches I actually want to eat (being GF AND veggie) are few and far between. Also, I’d read on their web site forum that the pastry for the torte was quite good, so I couldn’t resist. I did feel more than a minor twinge over the prices- and when you order the sandwich gluten free, you can’t downsize to a “small,” which is what I had originally planned to do. Nevertheless, I went with my plan. I was very, very tempted by the ravioli, but the price made me hesitate. And, I decided that I could make soup anytime, so best to test them with their bread based stuff and see how they compared to homemade.

It is worth noting that on their website they warn that because everything is made from scratch, it takes time. This is not the place for snappy, quick fast food (or commercial restaurant) service. But the two women working there were both sweet, and genuinely tried to make sure that their customers were happy with the food. They apologized for any slowness or mistakes with the order, and were very pleasant. Since we knew from the start that the food would take a little time, we settled into our chairs with some magazines, and took a few tours of the health food store while we were waiting.

farmerspizza2.jpg First, the pizza came. DH was quite surprised to see cabbage, shredded carrots and broccoli on the pizza, but I was intrigued. After all, I like my veggies. The only slight disappointment was that they brought it with the marinara sauce instead of the pesto that I had ordered- but since it took so long, I didn’t really want to delay the order by sending it back. Besides, DH prefers marinara to pesto anyway. The crust was white and somehow both slightly dense and spongy at the same time. It was also faintly sweet. I enjoyed the fresh vegetables with the red sauce, and felt like it was definitely healthier than the average pizza. I enjoyed it very much, although I still think I prefer Carol Fenster’s recipe for pizza crust that I make at home. The fun of it though, is that I was eating pizza IN A RESTAURANT made IN A DEDICATED GF KITCHEN. Safe, delicious, and the whole point is that it is different than the pizza I make at home. DH enjoyed it as well.

farmerssandy.jpg Next, my portabella mushroom sandwich came, dripping with gorgeous green pesto. There wasn’t a lot of feta in it- but it was very, very good, and there was absolutely no skimping on the mushrooms. Yummy! The bread was their gluten free sourdough loaf that they sell for around nine dollars for a huge loaf. It was good, and faintly sweet. Definitely better than store bought bread. If it had been cheaper, I might have picked up a loaf to take home.

farmersapplegreen2.jpgAnd last, the Torte de Blette arrived. It was considerably larger than I expected, but then again, it was a main course dish and wasn’t cheap. The crust was flaky and floury, without excessive butter. It was probably made from white flours like white rice and tapioca starch, although I can’t confirm this. I had made a very similar dish for Thanksgiving, although I used cheese and pine nuts. Both versions were tasty but not entirely my thing, so I probably would have been better off ordering something else. But, if you like a light, refreshing tart made with greens and apples that you didn’t have to slave over a counter to create- it’s definitely worth a taste.

It’s always hard to decide what to order when (for a change) we can eat every darned thing on the menu. I heard rave reviews of the chicken pot pie, and one woman sitting near us ordered it and seemed really happy with it. (It looked great!) Although I don’t eat chicken, maybe DH will have that next time- it looked fantastic! The salads also looked great- and although I am somewhat dismayed by the high price of a tofu addition- I suppose that is the price of eating organic and local foods. I think next time, I would probably try one of the lovely soups with garlic rosemary toast, or the curry vegetables which I’ve heard very good things about.

Tour the Store

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One more plus about stopping at the Farmer’s Kitchen was that I could pick up a few things for the rest of the trip, notably a fresh baked, shiny bagel and a scrumptious looking bun with rosemary and onion seasoning. I saved the bagel for breakfast the next morning, but I think it was probably even better the day it was baked. The rosemary onion bun was perfect, even the next day, with great flavor and amazing soft, fluffy texture. I meant to have a taste, and ended up eating the whole thing in the car with butter, one yummy slice after another. (DH helped me out- a little…) Both were around $2.50 each, and were worth every penny. I’d order a batch of those buns, if I could!

Peruse the Baked Goods
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Although Davis is a bit far, the Farmer’s Kitchen made a terrific stop on our road trip to Lake Tahoe and Reno. They are closed on Sundays, so I’m glad we were able to stop over on Saturday. After we enjoyed the pizza, half of our sandwich, and a few bites of the torte (we saved the rest for later), we went for a walk around the cute downtown area, which is obviously geared towards college students. There was a terrific used/ new book store called Bogey’s Books with quirky literature and a great cookbook section. We also stopped at a perfect local cafe called Mishka’s Cafe and had a cozy cup of coffee. If you have time and happen to be heading towards Sacramento from the Bay area, I’d definitely make Davis a stop on the way. It ended up being one of our favorite stops on our trip, and not just because of the great GF food!

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