Nothing defines the Monterey Bay area’s local food scene and our local food itself more than our farmers. Just as the seafood from our namesake bay and the foraged delicacies from our coastal woodlands, the remarkably diverse and prodigious harvest of our farms and ranches fires the imaginations of our chefs, food artisans and home cooks. And ultimately, it’s the bounty of our farms and ranches that makes up most of the local food on our plates.
If you’ve met any of them, you also know that our farmers are some of our region’s most fascinating people.
Yet unless you live on a farm or are lucky enough to count some of our farmers among your friends, odds are you seldom get a chance to step onto a local farm. And if that’s the case, you’re really missing out.
So it’s a huge pleasure, with this issue of Edible Monterey Bay, to give you the gift of an armchair trip to visit some of our most interesting farmers and ranchers.
You’ll read about the family in Hollister that bet its farm on a pig and wound up raising world-class pork, and the visionary duo behind a new enterprise that brings together medicinal and culinary tropical plants, organic vegetables, alternative fuel and whiskey into one astonishing symbiotic business in Freedom.
We share how the legalization of marijuana is already impacting our local agricultural community, and why seeking out parsnips from local farmers with the patience to raise these slow-growing, yet exceptionally sweet and complex roots is worth the effort.
You’ll also learn the tale behind the vibrant fermented hot sauce that enlivens the food on the cover of this issue—including how a chance load of serrano pepper seconds brought home by an aspiring farmer to his chef girlfriend spawned one of the region’s most exciting new food businesses.
We also explore the starring role the products of our local farms are playing in putting one the Monterey Peninsula’s most iconic restaurants at the vanguard of national food trends—even as it turns 100.
Rounding out this edition, you’ll find an article on an inspiring new coffee business in Santa Cruz and the story of how, as the Soberanes Fire approached, one chef kept his kitchen open to feed the firefighters.
Finally, since winter is ultimately a season of indulgence when it comes to food and drink, we offer a story about getting kids interested in cooking by, among other things, encouraging them to make their own junk food, and an illustrated cultural history of hot chocolate.
We wish you a joyous holiday season and many winter nights filled with luscious, healthful food and great reading!
Sarah Wood and Rob Fisher