hoshigaki by eric

As an introduction to the following post:
We are so lucky to be surrounded with talented, passionate and well intentioned staff members at all of our restaurants. It was with pleasure to find out that one of our line cooks, Eric Hass decided to look at the persimmons on the ESTATE property differently than we did.  He approached Chef Chris and asked if he could turn the persimmons into Hoshigaki.  I for one have never heard of that so I am anxious to watch the process continue and of course taste the end results!

I was first introduced to hoshigaki while studying the traditional foods of southern Japan; I was living and working with an elderly couple who ran a farm-restaurant-hotel out of their home. They adhered scrupulously to ancestral tradition in almost every aspect of their lives; they believed that there is a right way to do anything worth doing, and one must do it in precisely that way.

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For example, they grew their own rice, without any chemicals, and raised ducks in their fields to fertilize and protect the crop from pests. They brewed sake over the course of months, using their own brown rice, inoculated with the cultures they harvested from the rice leaves. And, of course, they peeled and meticulously massaged hachiya persimmons every day over the course of a month and half to preserve the fruit and accentuate its complex flavors; this is the art of hoshigaki.

The couple was very kind to me, and generous with their knowledge; I followed their examples as best I could, on the farm and in the kitchen. They remain an example to me of the thoughtful precision with which one can live life, and of the subtle pleasures that such a life can provide.   Eric Haas


Olive Harvest 2010

It was a beautiful day here at ESTATE. What more can you ask for?  The sky was brilliant blue, the sun was warm and the air was crisp and refreshing. It was the most perfect day for harvesting olives; our ESTATE grown olives. The trees were abundant with olives waiting patiently to be plucked from their bowing branches. They were green and red in color and lightly dusted with a crystalline frost.
















Justin, Judy, Rafa, Jaime,  and a few of the front of the house staff from the girl & the fig were thankful for this dry day. They spent nearly 10 hours laying tarps, climbing up and down ladders, shaking trees and removing olives from their limbs branch by branch.




A big “Thank you” to our harvesters, they harvested 1,189 lbs of olives which resulted in just under 16 gallons of fresh olive oil. Amazing!
















Stay tuned, olive oil tasting is next. Yummy.

December 1st Imagery Farm Visit







After days of rain, what can we expect other than brilliant shades of green, with raindrops glistening and creating their own mini rainbows.





Still connected with the Farm Project

I am in Pescadero in Baja, Mexico and I am happy to report that organic farming is going strong here as well.  Wandering through the farm, if I didn’t hear the crashing of the waves in the background, or the baby palm trees everywhere, I could have been in Sonoma.  From my understanding, the soil was recently tilled and seeds for vegetables planted in nice mounded rows.  Irrigation lines were strewn just like we did to the land that we are farming.

What is still the beginning of our fall-winter crops in Sonoma is overshadowed by the bountiful summer crops of Pescadero.  Temperatures in the mid 8o’s and a westernly breeze from the Sea of Cortez are just a few variables that  are making this organic produce shine.

The food that I have eaten here is also a sure sign that these folks are farming. Last night’s Minestrone soup with at least four different kinds of squash was delicious.  Today’s fish tacos had generous amounts of chopped tomatoes, crisp lettuce, onions and cucumbers from the garden.  It didn’t hurt that the fish was probably caught today.  Strawberry basil mojitos also use the farm to complete the recipe. Danny, the bartender proudly describes the ingredients just harvested earlier in the day.

It is nice to know that even on vacation, people care about growing the best possible food. I know the good tastes better, and seeing where it comes from is pretty incredible too.

There are acres of empty fields waiting to be filled.  I think that the folks at Rancho Pescadero are trying to understand what they have, what they can grow and what will work for the menus.  With the addition of their farm kitchen, expansion seems as a natural.   I can imagine if I come back here in a few years, they will all be overflowing with seasonal Baja ingredients ready for the picking.


Sonoma in November







The weather is definitely a bit bizarre here this year, with harvest pushed up before really being ready and ending up with hundreds of pounds of green tomatoes for relish, pickled tomatoes and other goodies.





I visited the fig garden today, though not as pretty as the Imagery Winery Garden, it is still bountiful with greens mostly.  A few random tomatoes, lots and lots of herbs, pesto basil, chives, thyme and a few scattered squash blossoms. The actual squash leaves look water logged and anemic.






Justin has been busy building our greenhouse so that we can get ready to plant seeds so that we will have our transplants ready for spring.  We have saved the containers from the fall planting to recycle for this purpose.






These pictures were taken using the iPhone app Instagram and the X-Pro II filter.  Very fun!

Protecting our harvest

If you’re going to maintain a garden of any size, one thing to keep in mind is protecting your crops against birds.  Birds, and especially crows, can be garden pests that will damage a wide spectrum of fruits and vegetables. Not only is the ripe produce eaten, but seeds are often taken after sowing.

There are several remedies for bird control that farmers have implemented which have worked.  Scarecrows, faux owls, or some other effigy are probably the most popular ideas for keeping birds from their veggie buffet.

You can also place netting over your crops and hope that small birds don’t penetrate it.  Birdbaths are also used as a distraction.  The theory here is that birds actually aren’t as hungry as they are thirsty, and by having water nearby you are providing birds with what they really want, therefore they leave your crops alone.  Birdfeeders, radios (birds don’t like noise), and overplanting may also be effective methods for keeping your crops from being devoured by birds.

Out at Imagery I noticed that there were long strips of ribbon tied to wooden posts that stretched over the newly planted fennel.  This, I found out, is another method for bird control.  When the light from the sun reflects off the ribbon it drives the birds away.  We at the farm project believe in taking humane and safe measures to protect our harvest and this is a great example of that.


Bowie’s 2nd trip to the Imagery farm

green forest lettuce


This morning I made a visit to the Imagery farm to look at what is going on.  Farmers Jaime and Rafael were busy setting irrigation lines for the cauliflower.

They had harvested the last of the melons, squash and lemon cucumbers and put them inside a box to take home to their families.


They generously offered me a baby melon and I accepted.  I’m sitting here now with delicious slices of home-grown melon.  In my haste to eat it I forgot to scoop out the seeds. That didn’t stop my co-workers from snagging some, though!




Justin was busy hauling off the cucumber plants.

Before I left I grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped two heads of lettuce, a bunch of basil, and filled a bag with San Marzano tomatoes.  At night I’ll make pesto sauce with the basil, a salad with the lettuce and marinara sauce with the tomatoes.