It's summertime, and we might just be the one place in the country actually enjoying itself, rather than wilting under an onslaught of brain-melting heat and humidity. So get out of the house! Some of our favorite bloggers have already told you where to eat outside this summer. Still, maybe you'd like to find yourself some green, rather than spending it. Forget the food trucks for a minute; let's go hang out with the farmers!
Getting on the electronic mailing list for Marin Organic, promoters and advocates for sustainable agriculture in Marin, is a great way to keep on top of tours, talks, and special events happening just across the bridge. Coming up next month are a dairy tour of Straus Family Creamery, an orchard walk through the olive groves of McEvoy Ranch, and a discussion with bakers Chad Robertson (Tartine Bread), Celine Underwood (Brickmaiden Bakery), and David Muller (Outerlands) about their adventures in sourdough. You can also go to Sonoma Farm Trails to downloads maps and farm guides and plan your own tour of that area's rich agricultural offerings.
CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, is best known for running the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, but they also organize periodic tours of local farms and producers. On August 10, you can join CUESA for an Organic Greens & Blue Cheese Tour featuring County Line Harvest, growers of excellent lettuces, strawberries, and more, and the family-run Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.
Chez Panisse is planning a series of pricey fundraisers for the Edible Schoolyard in conjunction with its 40th birthday next month, but there is one free, family-friendly OPENeducation event happening on August 27 at the Berkeley Art Museum. (Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance.) The day is planned as a series of "interactive cooking installations" between museum-goers and a posse of farmers, educators, and artists, using corn, beans, and squash planted in the outdoor spaces of the museum.
And speaking of family fun, devoted Bay Area Bites readers may know Devil's Gulch Ranch as one of our favorite sources for locally produced rabbit, but they're more than just bunnies. They also host a ranch camp for kids, with three more weeklong sessions remaining.
Apples in August? For anyone born and bred on the East Coast, where apples mean autumn, the idea of this can seem a little bizarre. However, our California-grown heirloom apple, the Gravenstein, is a early ripener, ready for pie by mid-August. Celebrate its yellow-and-red striped delights at Sebastopol's down-home Gravenstein Apple Fair on August 13 and 14. You can even go up against this one-time grand champion in the Apple Pie Contest.
Most small producers have their hands full just getting their day-to-day chores done, especially when there are animals in the mix--which means your favorite cheesemaker or farmer is rarely available for drop-in visits. On August 7, Bay Area Green Tours is planning a daylong "Tomatoes, Peaches, Corn, and More" tour of Brentwood, with stops at Frog Hollow Farm, Dwelley Farm, and Smith Family Farm. (Don't forget your sunscreen and sun hat, as Brentwood bakes in the summertime. Good for the peaches and tomatoes, a little shocking to fog-dwelling San Franciscans.) On August 18, take a One Valley, Three Milks tour and get a behind-the-scenes peek of Bellwether Farms (sheep), Two Rock Valley Cheese (goat), and Valley Ford Cheese Company (cow).
You can also sign up (for free) as a member of Weirauch Farm, a small sheep dairy and creamery, and save the date for their next members-only tour on Aug. 13. The setting, in the rolling hills of Petaluma, is beautiful, and the sheep (pictured above) are as friendly and inquisitive as puppies. While owners Joel and Carleen Weirauch finish up their sheep-milking parlor (they're hoping to have it completed in time for next spring's milking season), they're making some delectable cows' milk cheeses, available after the tour for tasting and purchase.
But what if you want to stay closer to home, enjoying the flavor of local farms without getting mud on your shoes? Then head over to Potrero Hill's sweet, sunny Plow. Look for the metal pig hanging outside, or the many happy diners inside, all grooving on lemon-ricotta pancakes or (my favorite) dreamy French toast gobbed with mascarpone and topped with thick wedges of brown sugar-and-butter roasted Summer Zee peaches from Blossom Bluff Orchards.
The menu shifts daily, but a recent meal included breakfast and lunch offerings like a soft scramble with lambs quarter greens, mushrooms, and goat cheese; housemade yogurt and granola with fruit and Potrero Hill honey; cucumber-buttermilk gazpacho; green bean and Sungold tomato salad with purslane and fresh mozzarella; and a BLT stacked with Nueske bacon and glowing, gorgeous heirloom tomato slices. Farms, orchards, ranchers, bakers, and producers are thanked in four lines of small type at the bottom of the menu, name-checking all the purveyors we know from markets around the Bay Area: Mariquita Farms, Dirty Girl Produce, County Line Harvest, Hamada Farms, Frog Hollow, Straus Family Creamery, Marin Sun Farms, Acme Bread, and more. Happy summer!