April 28, 2015 – Famous for his fabulous nine-course Big Sur tasting menu, executive chef John Cox of Sierra Mar restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn shared his seafood secrets with appreciative foodies at the fourth session of EMB’s In Your Backyard series last week at Holman Ranch tasting room. Cox joined forces with Art Seavey of Monterey Abalone Company for the event called “Cooking the Big Sur Coast.” The chef shared ways to prepare foraged sea vegetables and seafood while Seavey talked about growing his business amid initial resistance to aquaculture.
From his restaurant perched 1500 feet above the Pacific Ocean, John heaped praise on the kelp forest. “It’s an important natural resource. Algae is responsible for something like eighty-percent of the oxygen we breathe,” he said. “Additionally, it’s a versatile ingredient.”
The first bites he showcased were jokingly called “beach flotsam and jetsam,” dishes of dehydrated giant kelp, pickled sea grapes, and brined chain-bladder kelp. Cox also offered thin slices of Hamachi belly dried on giant kelp blades. “You can do this with any fatty fish,” he instructed.
Sea urchins were cleaned and dressed simply with lemon, garlic, and olive oil. He served them alongside ebony-hued squid ink baguette slices. “I’m lucky to have three sous chefs with whom I can collaborate and innovate,” he admitted. “I aim to take diners on a journey with foods that epitomize the flavor of the ocean.”
Cox advised us to be informed consumers, to eat what’s abundant, and to know where our food comes from. Regarding recipes and how to prepare foods, he urged: “improvise with simple, good products.”
Seavey discussed the difference between abalone fed pelletized rations and those nourished with kelp. “Kelp is a natural food of wild abalone. So it results in a farmed product that tastes like it comes from the wild, using the nutrients in the water.” The process reduces impact on water quality. As a result, farmed abalone is listed—by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program—as a ‘Best Choice.’
A portion of the evening’s proceeds benefitted Nancy’s Project, a charitable nonprofit organization founded by Nancy Costello that distributes food, clothing, and other necessities to farm labor families throughout Monterey County. Project coordinator and shepherd Betty Kasson described the focus of the organization and shared that Nancy’s spirit still guides the mission. “There are now approximately seventy volunteers continuing the work of one tireless 95-year-old woman,” she said. Six days a week, fifty one weeks of the year, drivers load and deliver donations to the families in need.
There are two more In Your Backyard events before the series finale on July 15th at the historic Holman Ranch. Attendees will enjoy spectacular views, food from the area’s best chefs, Holman Ranch wines, and music, while supporting six worthy causes—Ag Against Hunger, Everyone’s Harvest, Food Bank of Monterey County, MEarth, Nancy’s Project, and Seafood Watch.
The May 13th IYB event with Aubergine pastry chef Ron Mendoza is sold out, but there are still tickets for the evening of June 16th, when executive chef Ken MacDonald from Edgars at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley and Serendipity Farms’s Jamie Collins will guide people from garden to table, sharing how to plant your garden with your menus in mind and offering tips for cooking your bounty.Tickets are $10 for wine club members and $25 for others; seating is very limited.
There are also plenty of tickets left for the season finale, a farm-to-table picnic with live music, Holman’s award-winning wines and several exciting chefs at Holman Ranch’s stunning, historic vineyard, just beyond Carmel valley.
The chefs at the July event Chefs will inlcude La Balena’s Brad Briske, Sierra Mar’s John Cox, Porter’s in the Forest’s Johnny De Vivo, Edgars’ Ken MacDonald, Aubergine’s Ron Mendoza, Wills Fargo Steakhouse + Bar’s Jerome Viel, the Beach House’s Evan Lite and Monterey Meringue’s Lee Zimmerman and Domenick Allen. Purveyors will include Tassajara Natural Meats and Monterey Abalone Co.
To reserve your tickets for either event, call the Holman tasting room at 831.659.2640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets for the July 15 farm-to-table may also be purchased on eventbrite at:
The Holman tasting room is located at 19 East Carmel Valley Rd. in Carmel Valley Village and the Ranch address is 60 Holman Rd., Carmel Valley.
For information on the entire In Your Backyard program, go to www.ediblemontereybay.com and click on the events tab.